Flying into the light from Hisar with ‘Shadow Bird’

It is important for her to tell her own stories, and films have always granted her a certain refuge. She says that since childhood, the art form and what it can do has always intrigued her.

While Savita Singh’s directorial debut ‘Sonsi’ (Shadow Bird) won the National Award for Best Cinematography a few days back, and also happens to be India’s entry to the Oscars in the Shorts section, she goes back to her journey from Haryana’s Hisar.

The first female graduate from her village, Singh, an FTII passout in Cinematography remembers, “It has been a beautiful and long journey coming from Hisar. Though a patriarchal society, fortunately, I had the support of my progressive parents who exhorted us to keep dreaming. From growing up in a small village to seeing my debut film entered in the Academy from India is an overwhelming journey. It rekindles my faith in hard work and passion, and the fact that nothing is impossible,” she tells IANS.

Through the film, Singh, in many ways revisits her childhood.

“It is a representation of my collective memories of growing up. I wove a fable of my own timeless world, a village where it never stops raining, where you won’t see any human footprint except the four characters in the film.”

Adding that it took her a while to believe that the film, produced by actor Vikas Singh, had won the Bangalore International Short film festival and that the win would automatically qualify it as India’s entry to Oscar Shorts, she says, “All artists work for validation and it is always great to know that your film is speaking to the people.”

The director who debuted with Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Phoonk’ as a cinematographer and went on to shoot ‘Jalpari’ and ‘Hawaizaada’ says that ‘Phoonk’ would always remain special as it was her first film as a DoP.

“I was very young and exactly this months old in Mumbai when I got the opportunity to work with an established director like Ram Gopal Varma. As the movie was in the horror-thriller genre, it allowed me to play with light and shadow. Fortunately, the film was well-received by the audience and did well at the box office. I absolutely love cinematography and enjoy working with different directors.”

Talk to her about very few women cinematographers in the industry and she says that now there are more women in every department unlike a decade back.

“Seeing me behind the camera, reactions are generally mixed but things are surely changing. Initially, when I started, everyone seemed quite surprised. I remember when a setting boy started calling me ‘Camera ma’am’ during the shooting of the film ‘Hawaizaada’. It was a matter of a few hours, everyone picked up the newly coined term.”

Singh, who was also selected for the prestigious Budapest Master Class remembers those 15 days.

“We were allowed to see the latest DI, studio set ups and shot for half the day and reviewed our work during the other half. All this was supervised by a master like Vilmos Zsigmond.”

She now wants to take my experience as a cinematographer and use it to tell more stories as a writer and director.

“I love weaving my own world and would continue to make more films both as a filmmaker and cinematographer,” she concludes.