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Interview Hindi

You have to figure out your own ethical and moral universe, says documentary filmmaker Priya Sen

At the just-concluded IAWRT film festival, the filmmaker discussed the process of making Yeh Freedom Life, its form and aesthetics.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Priya Sen’s documentary, Yeh Freedom Life/ This Freedom Life, tries to keep up with its protagonists as they manoeuvre through erratic and unpredictable love. One of them works at a local beauty parlour and the other runs a small cigarette counter at a crowded intersection. They are surrounded by a cacophonous city and are both in love with other women.

The camera moves in and out of public and intimate spaces as the subjects discuss their ideas of love and marriage. The spaces of the beauty parlour and the shop become crucial as addas for the unfolding of the innermost desires and hopes of the characters.

Sen’s work cuts across film, video, sound and installation. Her work has centred around questions of form, urban ethnographies, music and migration. Her films were screened at several international film festivals. Yeh Freedom Life was screened as part of the IAWRT film festival in New Delhi, which just concluded. Speaking at an interaction, the filmmaker discussed the process of making the film and the way in which its form took shape. 

I was supposed to make a film on marriage and wanted to meet young women who were at a particular point in their lives. So I was wondering, where do women meet and went to a beauty parlour and asked people what they felt about marriage.

Talking about the aesthetics in the film, she said, “The film has love at its centre and when you have a film led by love, I was not sure what form it would take. I did not have a sense of whether or not it would be in a traditional documentary form. It took form during the editing where I was led by the material, which included the camera getting distracted by the TV.

Highlighting this further she said, “I was interested in this wandering form because this is how you are in apartment spaces, so the edit is where a lot of things emerged. The stories that stood out were the ones that persisted…Left to my own devices, I would have made a film where nothing connected to each other.”

Speaking about the editing process, she said, “We started editing the film like fiction and were led by the material and the fact that we knew them [the subjects] very well.” 

Sen also dwelled on the documentary form in relation to her film saying, “The documentary form is so unresolved and access is so weird and complicated. Where will the camera go, when to stop filming, is all one has to think about. You have to figure out your own ethical and moral universe.”

Related topics

IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival