When Women Call The Shots: Leena Yadav | Verve Magazine
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June 01, 2017

When Women Call The Shots: Leena Yadav

Text by Nittal Chandarana (With Ranjabati Das). Photograph by Manasi Sawant. Make-Up and Hair by Sanah Kewal

“There can be no bigger high than creating that perfect shot!”

After helming two potboilers — Shabd (2005) and Teen Patti (2010), director Leena Yadav found acclaim with Parched (2015), in which four women in Rajasthan attempt to break the chains of a patriarchal society. It speaks of the power of female friendship and the prominent role that sex plays in reclaiming one’s independence. The film made waves in the international festival circuit and also received a warm response closer to home from critics and audiences alike.

“I did not choose film-making. I was guided here through the interesting journey of wanting to be an architect, landing up in the field of economics, moving to Mumbai and finally enrolling in a course at Sophia Polytechnic. Once I started working, I knew that I wanted to tell stories, but felt technically handicapped to do so. I learned editing, which taught me the most about writing and directing.”

Parched was born out of a conversation with Tannishtha Chatterjee, which led to a decision to work together. The idea was to make a ‘sex and the village’ which would shake the pants off Sex and the City. We travelled extensively through rural areas and finally found our film in the spirited women whose stories we wanted to tell. The story comes from a very real place within me and everyone involved gave very integral parts of themselves to it. I think the charm of this movie is that the audience saw a lot of their own experiences on screen.”

“There is a lot of inherent discrimination that comes from deep-rooted conditioning. Being tagged a woman director in itself is a kind of discrimination. One of the first things I learnt in the industry was that however much you are warned, your experiences will be different. For instance, I want to tell the world that I had a lovely time with the censor board. Today I can proudly say — India saw the same film that was screened everywhere else in the world.”

“It was never an issue-based film, but a human story. For me, the perpetrators were equally the victims. I wanted to show how hope and humour see us through hardship. It was a thin line that we all walked, but I’m glad it worked!”

“Being on set is my favourite part of the whole process. Directing is the most magical aspect of film-making. People from different walks of life bring their varied experience to create that one perfect shot. There can be no bigger high than this!”

“I needed performers who could surrender to the part unconditionally. Tannishtha was always the first choice for Rani. Radhika (Apte) is the only actress I met for the casting of Lajjo. I have learnt a lot from all my actors.”

“I cannot divide films into indie and mainstream. I realise that audiences don’t enter the theatres if they don’t see a face they recognise on the poster. But if they do walk in, they are enthralled by the content. It is also difficult to find funding for such movies, but making money off them is not impossible. The key is to finding the right distributor. Parched ran for over 32 weeks in France!”

“I wish we had some minds with the vision to bring good films into theatres. We hear about Indian movies that have been appreciated all over the world but are missing from our screens. And that is a shame. Through cinema, I want to reveal my deepest pain and celebrate my brightest joy with the world. I also wish film-making could be a more confident and collaborative process.”

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