The Human Element

The Human Element

Documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy on projecting the many shades of life on screen

Change is a by-product,sometimes a side effect,of his kind of cinema. For Delhi-based filmmaker Rahul Roy,documentary filmmaking is an art form that humanises people,and through which,one can gain insight into their lives,struggles,situations and joys. It allows people to emerge as complete human beings,not just caricatures. “And that happens only when I spend time with them,” says Roy,who invests hours,days,months,even years,into one film. For instance,his film on the Mirasi community of Alwar,Rajasthan,took him three years.

In town for the ongoing Chandigarh Cinema Festival,Roy says he is fascinated by how communities are shaped,especially in a country like India. He is enthused by questions of masculinity,of what change does to people,and of shifting gender equations. He admits that it is tough to document all this,“but look at how people are increasingly getting interested in this art form. Technology,too,has made it possible to explore more”,he says. The key element,he believes,is passion.

With a Masters in Film & Television Production at the Mass Communication Research Centre,Jamia Millia Islamia,Delhi,Roy has made films such as Dharmayuddha,Nasoor,Invisible Hands Unheard Voices,Khel,When Four Friends Meet,The Performance and The City Beautiful. These focus on issues related to communalism,gender and marginalisation. Besides,his writings and research work on the issue of masculinity stands out. He has even taken out a graphic book on the subject,titled A Little Book on Men.

His film Till We Meet,a sequel to When Four Friends Meet,was screened on Saturday as part of the festival,along with Majma and The City Beautiful. “I made When Four Friends Meet in 2000 with four real men who were in their twenties at that time,and showed their lives,fantasies,dreams,aspirations and fears. Now,more than a decade later,I’ve revisited them with this sequel,to see what has transpired,” says Roy,who started focusing on men and masculinity in the ’90s and started asking questions on men and violence,gender equations and relationships. He then made a documentary,titled Red Earth,on Indian wrestling and masculinity. “Post the early-90s and globalisation,women have started working,becoming independent and moving into spaces traditionally occupied by men. Things men took for granted are now being challenged,leading to violence and insecurity. Men are finding it extremely difficult to adjust to this new period of flux,and to acknowledge women’s equality,” explains Roy.

The filmmakers feels that the centuries-old power situation,male ego and entitlement issues are being questioned and men are finding it difficult to relate to such things. “More than the public,this affects their personal lives,and my work captures this. For some,these are just studies; for me,these are human elements,” says Roy.

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