She is an actor, writer and director, all rolled into one. When she was barely 20, she came out with her first poetry album Chand ka paivand (Patch of the moon). This fetched her the prestigious Rajbhasa award instituted by the state government.
In 1994, she left Bihar for the United States to enrol in the New York Film Academy and learn the basic nuances of film making.
Twenty years later, she won the Rajiv Gandhi excellence award last month in the field of film-making. Meet Kalpana Singh Chitnis of Gaya, who was born and brought up in the land of the Buddha and studied in Magadh University.
Now in her mid-40s, Kalpana was in the town recently where she shot the mahurat of her
documentary film “Dancing in the rains”, based on honour killing. The film is about two sisters, aged 13 and 15 and shown dancing in the courtyard of their house in the rain.
Someone, however, records their rain dance and uploads it on the internet. Their brother comes to know about it when he goes to the market where he becomes the butt of ridicule for his sisters’ clippings. Deeply offended, he returns home and guns down his two sisters for no fault of theirs.
“It’s a short film. The mahurat and a short scene have been shot here at Chhata Masjid area. The rest of the film will be shot and completed in the US,” said Kalpana, and hastened to add that the film being made in Hindi will have English sub-titles.
Kalpana has settled down in California after her marriage. But deep within, her heart bleeds for her hometown. Originally, she wanted girls from Gaya to play the roles of two sisters. But somehow she could not find the appropriate artistes. “Two men from my hometown, however, have a short role in the film,” said Kalpana, who is herself playing the character of mother of the two girls.
After she completes the film, she intends to work on her forthcoming feature film, All About My Father. But then, Kalpana is not the only woman from Bihar who has carved a niche in film-making. Earlier, 30-year-old Gitanjali bagged the “Best Foreign Feature Film” award at the All Sports Film Festival held in Los Angeles for her debut movie “Yeh Khula Aasman” (The Open Sky).
On cloud nine, after her first directorial venture hogged the international limelight, the Patna-born Gitanjali joined the elite club of renowned woman film-makers like Aparna Sen, Mira Nair, Tanuja Chandra and Sai Paranjpayee, who made the audience sit and take serious notice of their respective debut movies.
Shot mostly at the picturesque locales of the Ganga basin and adjoining areas in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district, Gitanjali’s movie revolved around a teenager (Raj Tandon), who, despite his best efforts, could not make it to the IIT. A heart-broken and shattered Raj then contacts his parents in the United Kingdom, but neither of them has the time to even attend his phone calls.
Eventually, he turns to his grandfather (played by veteran actor Raghubir Yadav), who happens to be the best kite runner of his time. The grandfather uses a kite as a metaphor for life and imparts strong values in his grandson, and thereby helps him regain the lost confidence.
“The movie was based on the crumbling bond in the Indian family, which was
trying to keep pace with the increasing globalisation,” Gitanjali, who was also the script-writer of the film, had earlier told Deccan Herald.
The movie was selected to be screened at other five international festivals too. “Yeh Khula Aasman was screened at International Youth Film Festival (London), International Film Festival (South Africa), the Heart of England Film Festival, International Film Festival (Ireland) and the Kids’ First Film Festival, US,” said Gitanjali, who, like Kalpana, has done a course in film direction from New York Film Academy and in script-writing from St Martin’s College, London.
Born and brought up in Bihar, Gitanjali honed her directorial and writing skills at Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods Film Institute in Mumbai.
Another Patna-born actor and director Neetu Chandra had come up with her film Bidisiya, which could not set the cash box ringing but received critical acclaim.
Apoorva Bajaj of Muzaffarpur is another woman from Bihar who is now set to join the director’s club. Her debut film “Chal Guru Ho Jaa Ahuru” is already on the floors, and will hit the sliver screen in June.
Prior to this, Apoorva had won appreciation for her short film Khizan, which won an award at 2010 International Women’s Festival. “Chal Guru Ho Jaa Shuru is a movie which depicts how
godmen exploit the gullible men and women in remote areas. My aim is not to make films for sheer entertainment.
All I want is to educate society (through my movies) about the pervading ills,” says Apoorva, who is married to film-maker Pankaj Narayan.