'Indian documentaries don’t have a universal vibe': Filmmaker Trisha Das talks about the need for upliftment of the genre

National Award-winning documentary filmmaker and author Trisha Das has made more than 40 movies in her career. She was also UGA's ‘International Artist of the Year’. One of Trisha's books, which the filmmaker refuses to reveal, is being made into a film. In a no holds barred conversation, she talks about making documentaries, quirky choice of subjects for books, and brother, actor-comedian Vir Das. Excerpts:

Do you think documentaries in India have found a stronger foothold now, than ever before?

I do think it has become more popular than it was before. There are many production houses funding documentaries; there are channels that are telecasting them. Film festivals are being held all over the country to showcase them. So, it is a niche audience, but also a dedicated and enthusiastic audience.

When compared to the worldwide scenario, where do Indian documentaries stand?

When you compare it to the rest of the world, you will see that Indian documentaries tend to be less mainstream. This is a problem because the audience here looks for mainstream content. Also, most Indian documentaries don’t have a universal vibe where a particular streaming platform would pick it up and play it across the globe. I don’t think we are doing as much as we should be in this arena. So, the gap remains a wide one.

As a filmmaker, what are the areas you feel need to improve?

I think we need to look at the script and the film in a way that more and more people can relate to them [documentaries]. We also need to be less preachy and let the audience decide for themselves about what is right or wrong. The onus is on the makers as well as the people who commission such films. The more entertaining and mainstream a documentary can be, the better are its chances of getting picked up by OTT platforms.

What kind of equation do you share with your brother, comedian and actor Vir Das?

A pretty normal one, like any other set of siblings. We chat a few times a week, we also discuss work. It’s not different than any other family. We have worked together in the past and co-written some stuff as well. We are also open to doing that again in future. It depends on the kind of project we take up and also the subject.

Tell us about your books…

There are two books actually. The first one is Miss Draupadi Kuru, which was published in 2016. It features women from the Mahabharata — Draupadi, Kunti, Gandhari and Amba — coming down from heaven to New Delhi. It was a sort of comedy and adventure and also a second chance at reevaluating their lives on earth. The second book, the recently released Misters Kuru, features the Pandavas. They sort of find out that their mother and wife are missing and come down to New Delhi to take them back. In the process, they have an adventure of their own as well. Basically, the first book is about the women from the Mahabharata and the second one is about its men.

A section of the Indian audience, especially those sensitive to religious texts, may not take kindly to your version of the Mahabharata…

In my experience of making films and interactions with people there are few religious fanatics in India. Also, most of them have a fairly open mind to things like this. My books mostly cater to the urban readers, who read books in English. So, I can only talk about that section of my readership.

Most of my readers are young and are looking for mythology to be relevant in their lives. This is my way of redefining mythology in a modern context for people like them. We have done this with Hindu mythology over thousands of years. From one generation to another, we have redefined the epics in the context of real life. We have also over the years reinterpreted it and redefined it to make it relevant to the times we are living in. The fact that these books are doing well tells me that Indian readers, especially the younger ones, are open to it.

There are also talks about a film being made based on your subject…

Yes, talks are on but I cannot reveal much about it. Nothing has been finalised yet and we are still in the process of working it out. Hopefully, an announcement will be made soon.

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