At its annual cultural congregation,the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust in Delhi would play a gracious host to their regular member,Zohra Sehgal. She would mark her attendance,and indulge in rousing recitations. Zohraji was very active,even when she was in her 90s,and till she could not make it any more. In order to keep the tradition alive,I decided to record her interactions and recitations,and took the camera to her place, says documentary maker Anant Raina. In Zohra Sehgal – An Interview,31-year-old Raina has captured Sehgals vibrant personality,based on two interviews with her when she was 99 years old,in a film. She is now 101. She speaks about her life,her work and her family,interspersed with moving poetry recitations. It was amazing how she had such a vivid and long-term memory, says the filmmaker,who screened this film at the Chandigarh Creative Cinema Circles monthly event,Sunday with Filmmaker. Rainas other works,such as Mann Faqeeri,Natwar and Nandi,and Badshah Lear were screened too. While Mann Faqeeri delves into the depth and complexity of Kashmiri Sufi poetry and music,Natwar and Nandi a nine-minute-long film that he shot on his iPhone is about a colourful character he met in Puri.
With his lanky frame,long hair,beard and moustache,Raina has the aura of wanderlust about him. But theres no mistaking the resemblance to his thespian father,MK Raina. I was initially into computer sciences. My father is into the arts,but my mother is a doctor. My sister is pursuing a corporate life abroad and my wife is working in the corporate world as well, says Raina. He,however,chose to withold from management (hes done an MBA too) for a while and experiment with a film appreciation course in Pune. Not very happy with management studies,he took a detour in 2005. Once I got into it,I said to myself,this is it, says the filmmaker.
Theres been no looking back ever since. He started his career as a writer for childrens show Galli Galli Sim Sim on television,won the first prize at an international ad film competition organised by MO Films in 2008,has worked on a variety of video projects including documentaries,music videos and corporate films and has also participated in several photography shows across the country. Working with Discovery and National Geographic,Raina has been on the move. He was also in Chandigarh for two months as part of the production team of Leslee Udwins film,West is West.
Currently working independently on a film on Kashmir called Badshah Lear: Shakespeare in the Valley,Raina also screened excerpts from the same,adding how this has rekindled an engagement with Kashmir. My father did a play with theatre artists from Kashmir called Badshah Pather on King Lear.
A Lear in a village setting was a story that needed to be told,and I said why not. I love to spin stories, says Raina.
The project is special for it is expected to aid the resurgence of traditional theatre style of the Valley called Bhand Pather,as well as people and groups whove been marginalized due to terrorism. Like a couple of his other works,this too has been funded by the Public Service Broadcast Trust (PSBT),a government body. They fund independent projects,never interfere,and pay on time. What else does one need, he says.
While his independent documentaries bring out the storyteller in him,the corporate films,he admits,awaken the creative genius in him. A guitarist,singer,foodie,photographer,its the medium of films that defines Raina the most. It is the one way to combine all my interests travelling,music,writing,photography and food, he says. He is now working on a black comedy set in Delhi.
He would love to tell stories from the Northeast. There are hundreds of tribes and cultures in the Northeast waiting to be explored. Were cut off from them and view them as seven states,but they are layered and so rich. For instance,theres the travelling theatre of Assam,the Kohinoor theatre, says Raina,who also wants to reinvent music festivals in India and capture them on film.