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Fowzia charts her own course

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All rounder Fowzia Fathima
All rounder Fowzia Fathima

Y. SUNITA CHOWDHARY

Fowzia Fathima’s art lies in motion.

Personally, I don’t care about gender, what counts is talent, calibre and it’s fun to work in a challenging and healthy atmosphere

Cinematographer Fowzia Fathima comes from a family of doctors. Her father, grandfather, uncles and aunts have all taken up medicine as a career. There was an assumption that she would follow suit. “Good, you won’t have to slog,” was her father’s reaction when she announced she would graduate in Fine Arts. It’s just not her father who encouraged her but her grandfather was broad-minded as well. He insisted that all women in his family should not wear a purdah and they should all work towards becoming postgraduates. Fowzia quips she’s one of the beneficiaries of the advice.

After graduating in Fine Arts, the young lady did everything she wanted to in life. She joined NCC, learnt gliding, became a pilot, then joined an art gallery and apprenticed with Anjolie Ela Menon as also Sharan Appa Rao. Throughout this period, she learnt about contemporary art, how galleries work, about the people who came to look at art and generally kept her curiosity alive. She even did her Masters in Art Criticism in Baroda and won a gold medal. Fowzia says despite all the rounds to the library, her brush with painting and drawing she didn’t see herself settling down as an artist or an academician. She adds, “I was already energised and I didn’t want to stay put in one place, I wanted to expand my knowledge, travel and do lot more things and that’s how I thought of joining the FTI in Pune.”

Fowzia met her husband Pradeep Cherian at the Film Club in Baroda and now their family is complete. Her daughter Ana Mariam Fatima is four. Interesting name! She laughs, “Pradeep is a Syrian Christian and he has high regard for Annapurna Devi, the singer. Mariam is his mom’s name and Fathima is mine. We started calling her Anna but my daughter resented it because she felt it sounded very boyish and wanted it as Ana.

After her study in Pune, she returned to Chennai and worked with P.C. Sreeram, a renowned cinematographer who won the National Award for Nayagan. She worked with him in Alai Payuthe and then Mitr-My Friend, Shadow of the Cobra, Ivan, Kuch Tho Hai, Uyiir, Silmabi (shot in 11 days) and Silandhri (spider) are some of her works. After completion of her first film, Mitr, she showed it to her guru P.C. Sreeram. Fowzia recollects, “Everyone came out of the theatre and he was sitting quietly inside. When I went up to him, he patted me on my shoulder and said that I would get the National Award for the film. Some other film got it but his words were like the ultimate in compliments.”

When she is not shooting, Fowzia conducts workshops in cinematography in Chennai and says the response, especially from girls, is amazing. She is at the moment balancing her career and her family, goes on assignments only when it interests her. So how is the atmosphere at work? She replies, “Those who think of you as a professional work with you. Personally, I don’t care about gender, what counts is talent, calibre and it’s fun to work in a challenging and healthy atmosphere.”


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