“Do you know how heavy a movie camera is,” asked one of the men at the interview board.
Deepti Gupta didn’t. But what she knew was that she was determined to carry it on her slender shoulders and become a cinematographer.
She did, however, have an answer to the question posed to her at the interview at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, over two decades ago. “Six-year-old girls carry huge pots filled with water and walk great distances in Rajasthan,” she said. “So I can handle the weight of a camera.”
What she found difficult to tackle, however, was the attitude of the film industry, which she joined after graduating from the Film Institute in 1998. “Cinema is a male-dominated industry and cinematography even more so,” Deepti told The Hindu on Wednesday. “Even now, girls are not encouraged to study cinematography and they find it much tougher to get a job than their male counterparts once they finish their course. The perception about the camerawoman has to change in Indian cinema.”
To take the quest forward, women cinematographers have come together to form an organisation of their own, The Indian Women Cinematographers’ Collective, on International Women’s Day.
The idea came from Fowzia Fathima, who was Deepti’s junior at Pune. She had also faced the same ‘camera weight’ question.
Like Deepti, who shot films like Honeymoon Travels , Fowzia too proved herself as a director of photography with films such as Mitr: My Friend and Uyir . “There are organisations for women in every other field of work and there is a need for one in films, especially cinematography,” said Thiruvananthapuram-based Fowzia. “I think it is for the first time that the female work force is uniting in the film industry. We have already more than 60 members.”
She hopes the new initiative would help change the perception about female cinematographers in the industry. One of her younger colleagues, Neha Parti, said things were better than before for the female cinematographer but there was room for improvement.
“I was fortunate that I could begin working under someone like Ravi K. Chandran on a big film called Fanaa (2006) and was noticed by veteran producer Yash Chopra, but not everyone was convinced about my talent just because I am a woman,” said Neha, whose latest film Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya releases on Friday.