By Shivangi Singh:
From a social worker to a critically-acclaimed actress and then going on to become an award-winning director and the first Indian to be inducted into the French Government’s International Women’s Forums Hall of Fame- How has this amazing journey been for you?
Challenging and exciting, but primarily a learning one. I like doing different things and they all sort of feed on each other. Some things get left behind, but then other priorities replace them.
Acting, Directing, Philanthropy-You wear many hats. What is closest to your heart? What gives most meaning to your life?
Women are forced to be great multi-taskers, thanks to all the different things they end up doing. We are forced to be good at it! But honestly speaking, juggling various roles has been challenging.I will continue to travel the journey of life with multiple interests and concerns, and thankfully without the pressure of proving myself or fearing the consequences. I deeply care about issues concerning women and much of my work, be it acting, writing, directing, speaking is about advocating these concerns. It is all half a drop in the ocean, but we all need to do our little bit. I have seen that there is always time for what one really wants to do. Whatever is priority comes to the forefront and the rest automatically takes a backseat. At that time other things go on the back burner and then again resurface later. During Firaaq that was my focus, now Chhoti Productions and of course Vihaan, who has made me more introspective other than filling me with a lot of joy.
You are involved in active campaigning for issues of Women and Child Welfare in India and abroad. What, according to you, is the issue that requires most attention right now in terms of the same? What are some of the things that the young generation must keep in mind in terms of those issues?
Women’s progress and regress is happening almost simultaneously. More women are speaking out and asserting their views. But at the same time incidents of female infanticide, dowry deaths or sexual assaults have not decreased. Much of these heinous crimes occur in affluent sections of the society, further forcing us to question the kind of education we are imparting. Till society doesn’t take it upon itself as their problem and doesn’t leave it to only women fighting their case, the change will be slow.
As the Chairperson of the Children’s Film Society of India, how do you feel about censorship and viewer sensibilities in our country?
Today the children are growing up on a completely different diet and we cannot stop that. But we can surely provide an alternative. There aren’t too many takers in terms of distribution, as they prefer family entertainers as opposed to films made specifically for children, despite the fact that kids form a huge part of the audience. There is a real dearth of quality content that provides wholesome entertainment to children. Children form a huge film audience the world over. I wonder why we haven’t explored this segment enough. In India, economics gets in the way of everything, more so filmmaking. Because of that, people often don’t want to take a chance. However, it is possible to make low or medium budget films that are strong in content and form, do not compromise the ideals and are a lot of fun. Unfortunately, our films for children are either preachy and boring, or then fluffy and sometimes even violent. The reality shows are putting a lot of pressure on children which can be very harmful for their emotional growth.
What does cinema mean to you? When did your romance with acting begin and how?
I got into films as an actor by default. I did my Masters in Social Work and have worked with various NGOs and the experience of being exposed to the many realities is bound to impact my choices in films both consciously and instinctively. There is no career graph as there is no real strategy or plan to the way my life has unfolded. Social work is what I did much before I got into acting, so for me it was the other way around.