‘Documentaries are an extremely powerful medium of art’

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 29 June 2018

Sankalp Meshram, whose documentaries will be screened at FTII on Sunday, says that finding funds and an audience are the biggest challenges before documentary filmmakers in India

The National Film Archive of India (NFAI) is set to screen three award winning documentaries by filmmaker Sankalp Meshram as a part of the 3rd screening of Documentary Film Club on Sunday at Law College Road. The Documentary Film Club was recently launched by NFAI in collaboration with Arbhaat Film Club to help documentary cinema reach a wider audience. 

The films to be screened includes Lasya Kavya, which revolves around Padma Vibhushan Alarmel Valli, who is one of the greatest exponents of Bharatanatyam in India. The film is an exploration of her oeuvre, her style, her philosophy and her persona. The film, which had won two National Awards for Best Film on Art and Culture in 2012, bring an insight into the art of dance itself; Into the Unknown is about renowned architect Charles Correa. The film is a detailed microcosmic attempt at understanding the design behind his last creation — Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Lisbon, Portugal. 

“We had collaborated on another project but both Charles and I always wanted to concentrate on one building of his. He wanted it to be this building because he believed that it was his finest work,” says Meshram. 

The third documentary is Girija – A lifetime in Music, which tries to understand her work process, her personal journeys and philosophy. It won the National Award for Best Film on art and culture this year. Meshram says that Girija Devi wanted him to focus more on the music than on her.  “When we started working on the project, the problem was what to keep and what to leave out because Girija Devi was like a ocean. We have included a large section of music in the film and tried to cover everything she has done. Yet it’s not enough to cover her reign and totality of what she has done,” says Meshram, a well-known writer, producer, director and editor.  

Meshram who has passed out from Film and Television Institute of India, says that his primary aim is to ensure that cinematic value of any film is never diluted. 

“Cinema shouldn’t be only a medium of record because it is a medium of juxtaposition of images and how we create meaning through those images. Therefore, it’s always an exciting thing for me to see how we create cinema with whatever material we have,” he says. 

Meshram has received five National Awards and has directed many popular TV shows like Surabhi, Kaliedoscope, Good Food Guide, Dil Deke Dekho among others. As a documentary filmmaker, his experience is that in most cases the subject of the film is arrived at accidentally.  

The biggest challenges that documentary filmmakers face today are funds and the audience to show their film to, says the filmmaker. 

“Everyone who makes documentaries knows that there are no returns or that’s the idea they have. Thankfully, things are changing because the films can now be accessible on DVD and various digital platforms. People are able to recover their money. All the three documentaries have recovered their costs even though they are high budget projects,” he says, adding that those films who do not make it to festivals, do not recover their money.

ST Reader Service 
Catch the documentaries at National Film Archive of India, Law College Road, on July 1 at 3 pm

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