Filmmaker duo Sarmistha Maiti and Rajdeep Paul speaks about their latest short Kayantar
National Award-winning filmmaker duo Sarmistha Maiti and Rajdeep Paul have always tried to project the harsh realities of our country’s socio-cultural strata through their hard-hitting short films. Be it Malai, a stark story of a little poor boy discovering the uglier side of the great Indian wedding during his quest for ice cream or 3 On a Bed, a film on polyamory, or The Woman...And The Man, a short exploring the male gaze, all their movies have a deeprooted message for the audience.
Their latest film Kayantar (Metamorphosis), which is doing rounds in festivals is about traditional cosplay performers (Bahurupis), and how a Muslim girl wants to carry forward the legacy of cosplay but is forbidden by her father. In a world, tormented to its core by old-world ideals based on patriarchy, misogyny and xenophobia, the film yearns for a paradigm shift and strives to create a new world of freedom and equality for all. We had a chat with the filmmaker duo about Kayantar and the evolution and future of shorts in the age of the pandemic. Excerpts:
What was the idea behind Kayantar?
Rajdeep Paul: There were two main driving forces behind making Kayantar. We wanted to give expression to our own experiences of how gender binaries create an oppressive environment for children as they grow up and this is quite identical everywhere, across all societies and economic background. Also, we were instigated by the socio-political situation of India, as well as the entire world, where religious fundamentalism and ethnic bigotry are spreading like wildfire and posing threats to individual existence and aspirations. Since we were fascinated by the tradition of Bahurupis, which is an eroding art form, we used it as a context to express our ideas.
Sarmistha Maiti: Kayantar voices the poignant cries of every individual around the world who is discriminated and persecuted merely for trying to exist simply as a human being beyond the forcefully imposed rigid definitions of ethnic, religious and gender boundaries created by a fundamentalist society.
How did u come up with such a brilliant cast?
SM: There are many brilliant actors who are completely ignored by mainstream cinema. For Kayantar, we chose actors with a theatre background who could blend into the reality of the characters. We also involved the local villagers as supporting characters.
How was the reception of Kayantar at the recently-concluded IFFSA 2020?
RP: The film has already been appreciated at several international film festivals but being virtual this time, IFFSA Toronto gave us a unique opportunity to share our film with an even larger global audience and we are happy that it has resonated with the audience.
Will you make full-length features too?
SM: We were in the process of making a feature film which has been postponed because of the pandemic.
What’s the way forward for Indie filmmakers post-pandemic?
SM: Independent filmmaking has of course been hit hard, but mainstream films have probably been hit harder. We are always used to bearing hardships. The present crisis will turn the audience more receptive towards meaningful cinema and hope there’s a brighter future waiting for independent filmmakers.