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March 06, 2018

Getting Real With Reema Sengupta

Text by Tina Dastur. Photograph by Anish Sarai

Film-maker Reema Sengupta discusses her latest film, Counterfeit Kunkoo, stating that it is high time that we as a society stand up for equal rights and women-led films

As the gender equality movement gathers momentum globally, the currents are also being felt in the film industry. Female-centric movies are slowly highlighting serious issues and conveying long-suppressed truths. Take film-maker Reema Sengupta’s latest film, Counterfeit Kunkoo, India’s only short film entry at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and the country’s first short to be premiering at Sundance after 15 years. “I’ve always been sensitive to socio-political scenarios around me. I chose to be a film-maker so I could address the issues we face as a society and as humanity as a whole. I chose films as my medium because they have the capacity to incite empathy and also have prolific reach and perpetuity,” says Reema. Counterfeit Kunkoo is a 15-minute short that has an unmarried woman trying to rent a house in Mumbai. It touches upon issues like housing discrimination and marital rape. “It is an exploration of the idiosyncrasies which come with the deep-seated misogyny that finds its way into everyday life in India. It deals with the battles one must fight, and whether winning or losing those battles matters at all,” Reema explains.

The film has been produced by the company she co-founded with former marketing professional Kunal Punjabi — Catnip. From starting out as a company that focused on music videos (in collaboration with the likes of OML and Viacom18 and artists like Skrillex, Nucleya and The Chainsmokers), the production house has transformed video content in India. “While we continue to focus on concept-based video content, we have steadily diversified into fiction and culture-based content. Catnip has helped me find my voice and vibe, ” states the Mumbai-based film-maker.

Even though Reema is currently soaking in the praise she has received for Counterfeit Kunkoo, the 27-year-old insists, “All stories are important. We need to aspire for a world where the gender of the director or the protagonist is irrelevant to the story. We are reeling from centuries of repression, ignorance and oppression. So, it is important for us as a society to recognise the battles women have fought to be able to make the films they’re making today and support female-led and female-made films till we reach some semblance of equal representation.”

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