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New Delhi : Women filmmakers of Indian origin who have been making films overseas for several years do not feel any discrimination as compared to their male colleagues. However, some of them do say that they face problems in finding funding and later finding distribution channels for their films – though they add that the story is similar as far as male colleagues go. Furthermore, the situation in the east or west was very similar.

Taking part in a Panel Discussion on ‘India On My Mind’ as part of the ongoing first-ever Pravasi Film Festival, the women were also emphatic that they preferred to pick Indian subjects because they felt more comfortable when dealing with such themes. The competitive Festival has been organized by the Pravasi Today Group in association with the Mauritius government at India Habitat Center from 3rd to 6th January. Around 35 films from different countries are being screened at the Festival and a large number of the filmmakers have come to India to attend the event.

Eminent filmmaker Deepa Mehta from Canada, whose film ‘Earth’ is being screened at the Festival, said she had felt in her earlier years overseas that she could not relate to the foreign characters. “So I feel complete when I make a film I can ‘smell’,” she added. She said she also liked the melodrama in Indian films.

But she said the ugly episode about the shooting of her film ‘Water’ in India had put her off and she had felt as if she had been rejected by her own country. She revealed that her next film is on the tortuous journey of the ship ‘Kamagata Maru’.  Asked why she picked up dark subjects, she said this was not true and subjects she did not know about seemed to fascinate her.

Referring to the mainstream cinema, she said acceptance levels had changed all over the world and people overseas related better to the mainstream than to the art cinema from Bollywood. Nasreen Munni Kabir from the United Kingdom, whose film ‘Bismillah of Benares’ and ‘The Inner Life of Shahrukh Khan’ are being screened here, said the experience of most people overseas is that they have difficulty connecting with culture, food, language and so on.

While Indian cinema had played a major role in bridging this gap, she felt that enough documentation was not available about Indian cinema and she had tried to bridge that gap through her films and her books. Asked about whether she still felt India was her home, she said ‘home is inside your head and heart’. In any case, the whole notion of distances had changed with modern technologies. She said she had written books on Lata Mangeshkar, and brought out the dialogues and script of ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, and ‘Awara’ and was working on ‘Mother India’.

Asked about her film on Guru Dutt, she said the research had taken her twelve to 13 years as no one could give her real answers. ‘What one has in memory is impressions’, she added. She said there was greater fusion of identities in the third or fourth generation NRIs, but one was still naturally drawn to Indian subjects. Sangeeta Dutta, whose debut feature film ‘Life Goes On’ opened this Festival on 3rd January, said she had always had a feeling of living a double life, being an Indian as well as a Briton. She said she had made several documentaries on British subjects, but her first feature had to be on an Indian family in the United Kingdom.

Festival Advisor and renowned critic Aruna Vasudev, who moderated the discussion, said she had found it was easier today for women to make films in India than for their counterparts to make films overseas. She added that production and distribution could be best handled by someone else.

The awards will be given for the best feature film, the best documentary and the best short film category. The Feature Film Jury is headed by veteran filmmaker Basu Chatterjee while the Non Feature Jury has renowned critic Latika Padgaonkar as Chairperson. Other members of the Feature Film Jury are filmmakers Rahul Rawail and Sanjay Singh, eminent critic Aruna Vasudev who is also the Festival Advisor, and critic Namrata Joshi. Other members of the Short Film Jury are Film Historian Lalit Mohan Joshi and senior critic Utpal Borpujari.

Pravasi Today, with its presence in around 125 countries is a platform for the Indian Diaspora to exchange views on various issues. Team Pravasi Today has also been successfully organizing many international festivals for seven years and has organized cultural exchange programmes between Indian and European countries.