By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on April 07, 2016
"We crib about not getting enough sleep on the days that we’re shooting and we crib about sleeping too much when we’re not working! But in the end, I think the journey of a filmmaker is so enriching that I don’t think there’s anything that I permanently dislike about it," says Leena Yadav jovially, when asked about her least favorite thing about being a filmmaker. A 10 minute long conversation with her and you can feel how much this woman loves cinema!
Yadav discovered cinema slowly and gradually. After doing a diploma in Mass Communication, she started working as an editor for television. Soon enough, she started directing for TV and eventually ended up being a filmmaker. Her debut film Shabd was acclaimed by critics for its unusual, yet intriguing storyline, that delved into a writer's mind. Then she went on to make Teen Patti, which had Amitabh Bachchan in the lead and also had Sir Ben Kingsley in it!
Leena Yadav's third directorial venture Parched premiered last year at Toronto International Film Festival to warm reviews and then while continuing its festival run, went on to win the Inaugural Impact Award at the Stockholm Film Festival. The bittersweet contemporary story of four women from a village has been beautifully shot by Academy Award winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter.
Parched is now set to be screened at the ongoing Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA). The festival this year has a significant focus on women filmmakers, so we decided to interview the women filmmakers who are participating at IFFLA. We're very happy to present another interview in the series of interviews, after publishing the interviews of filmmakers Anu Menon, Payal Sethi and Pritha Chakraborty.
In this interview, Leena Yadav, Director of Parched, talks about how the film was conceived, about how there's nothing she dislikes about being a filmmaker and why she hates being called a 'woman filmmaker'.
This started with a conversation that I was having with Tannishtha Chatterjee. We were saying let's do something together and as we started talking, she shared with me several incidents and conversations that she had had with some women in Kutch when was shooting Road, Movie. So we said let's make sex in the village, and that's where it started. Later obviously it got more serious than that. Then we traveled to lots of villages and had conversations with many women. And when we came back to Mumbai, we realised that the stories are the same here as well, even though my film takes place in a village. Then I sent it to my filmmaker friends across the world and then they wrote back more stories, which made me realize that the film has a universal subject. And that people would relate to it internationally. So that's how it happened.
I didn't know that I wanted to become a filmmaker. I was doing Economics (Hons) in college and midway through that I decided I wanted to do something with the media, I didn’t know what exactly. But I came to Mumbai and I did a diploma in Mass Communication from Sophia College. That actually opened up my world. And then I started working in TV, became an editor to start with. While I was editing, somebody offered me to direct something and then I started directing lots of stuff on TV. And somewhere along the way I wrote my first film Shabd. And so it happened!
I’m a storyteller and I get drawn to fascinating things. In fact, I like more character-based subjects, I like exploring the human mind, behavior and psychology in whichever story that I do. So those are the things that I’m drawn to. So essentially drama at a very humane level.
The best thing has to be that you get to live so many lives when you make a film. You get to explore so many lives and characters, which you wouldn’t normally come across. Also, I think cinema is the most collaborative art. You get to work with so many artists. And then when you create one creation together with so many artists, I think that’s the biggest high that anyone can get! I don’t think you’d get to meet the kind of people you get to meet being a filmmaker.
You know, we crib about many things, on and off, but I don’t really think there’s anything that I dislike permanently about being a filmmaker. We crib about not getting enough sleep on the days that we’re shooting and we crib about sleeping too much when we’re not working! So the thing is that we’re just used to crib about a lot of things! But in the end, I think the journey is so enriching that I don’t think there’s anything that I permanently dislike about it.
Well, I’d like to have a pay cheque at the end of every month, which this profession doesn’t allow me. So you go through some very financially bad phases, but it’s all a part of the game. The highs make up for that!
Leena Yadav with cinematographer Russell Carpenter on the sets of Parched
Firstly, I hate being called a woman filmmaker. I’m a filmmaker. And I’m an individual. So I think we have to stop putting women in a box labeled ‘women filmmakers’. Nobody calls male directors ‘men filmmakers’.
So I think the first thing towards breaking this is to stop categorizing people like that. Otherwise, one starts being judged for being who she is and not by what she made. ‘Oh so she’s a woman filmmaker, so she made a woman-based film’ is something you hear.
We need to stop putting them in these brackets. I think representation of women as a whole in the industry has increased. Of course, it’s nowhere equal to the number of men, but I think we’re on our way! And hopefully, it will increase. Because women are doing brilliantly in all areas of the film industry. That should reflect in the pay scales as well. Now female actors are paid less than their male counterparts. But hopefully, we are moving in that direction. Nobody can put them down!
I wouldn’t know! It’s because I don’t ask for privileges because I’m a woman filmmaker. When I’m working, I’m just an individual on the set! So I have never paid attention to these things. I’m against the concept of being categorized as someone different.
I think it’s challenging to make a film. And it’s equally challenging for men s well as women. If you look at the past, the numbers prove that things are changing. Whether you look at the participation of women in technical jobs, has increased. That itself says something!
Firstly, forget whether you’re a woman or a man. You’re an individual, who has a very individual take in life and you’re an individual storyteller. So, keep that individuality alive.
And yes, it sucks but nothing is impossible in the world. It’s your dream to make films, and there’ll always be challenges. We like to think that this is the toughest thing, when we face difficulty, but it’s not. Every job has its own challenges. If you have a dream, just go for it!