The first female technician to be trained at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), critically-acclaimed filmmaker Arunaraje Patil unveiled her autobiography Freedom: My Story at the recently conlcuded Habitat Film Festival.
Published by HarperCollins India, the book recounts the challenges she faced as a filmmaker and the ways in which she faced life’s challenges unflinchingly.Advertisement
The book reading included excerpts recounting incidents related to the filming of her first solo feature Rihaee (1988).
Her earlier films were co-directed with ex-husband Vikas Desai and signed as Aruna-Vikas.
In the extract that was read, she admitted that although she was prepared for the usual hurdles while making the film, there were some unexpected troubles in the form of a female actor complaining most seriously about the dearth of “interesting men” as most of the actors were female!
Another incident involved a male actor who was making passes at village girls and a bunch of villagers came to beat him up. Being a regular drinker, the actor had fallen asleep somewhere and could not be found and so escaped the wrath of the community!
Remembering the late actor Vinod Khanna, she also reminisced about how he had magnanimously given her Rs30,000 when she had run out of money to make a print of the film. When she dithered and was hesitant about accepting it, he put it in her hands saying, “Don’t worry, payable when able”.
In conversation with Rajiv Mehrotra, independent filmmaker and Managing Trustee of The Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), Patil also talked about her personal anguish as she lost her nine-year-old daughter to cancer and the very next day, her husband asked her for a divorce.
Describing this as the lowest point in her life, the filmmaker described her journey towards acceptance and forgiveness as she adopted the mantra, 'Let it go'. “My search was always for freedom and I realised that if you want freedom, you have to be responsible for your own life and everything that has happened,” she said, emphasising the need for compassion and letting go of any bitterness in life.
Talking about the book, Mehrotra extolled Patil’s accomplishments as a filmmaker while emphasising her compassion for others, describing the ways in which she had nurtured friends, including Smita Patil and Parveen Babi, who struggled in their own lives. He foregrounded her as being an engaged feminist who did not fear being feminine and led her life with clarity, courage and determination.
Given her exploration of the relationships between men and women in her films, he also asked her about her idea of an ideal relationship between the sexes, to which she replied that she saw the sexes as, “Creating a new equation, understanding each other and not being threatened by each other. Conversation and compassion can make this possible”.
Asked about her plans for the future in what could be described as her “third innings”, the filmmaker responded, “I do not have a clue. I’m 70 years old and my warranty period is over! For years, what has worked for me is surrendering to the universe. I have no idea about what the universe wants me to do next and what I’m supposed to create”.