On a journey of self-discovery

On a journey of self-discovery

“Am I really that good?” The thought kept recurring as Shomshuklla Das heard of her film win nominations for the best story, best foreign language feature film and the best director at the Madrid Film Festival recently. “It is only my first feature film, you know,” she says, by way of explanation.

The excitement was palpable as she was getting ready for a special screening of Sandcastle in Bangalore earlier this month. And understandably so, Shomshuklla has not only written and directed the film, she has also designed the costume, done the casting and helmed the art direction.

“It is the story of every woman and her search for identity. Who am I? That’s a question each one of us has to face at some point in our lives,” says the 49-year-old debutant filmmaker. It was this journey of self-discovery that brought Shomshuklla outside the comforts of her Mumbai home into the challenging, yet fulfilling arena of the creative arts.

 “I got married while I was still in college. I went on to do MA, have a baby, become a gracious host, good wife, loving mother. There was no crisis as such…but I knew I was capable of more, much more,” she says of her erstwhile life.

Over the last two decades, Shomshuklla has recorded nine music albums - Indian classical as well as Indian pop; started her own theatre company, Kali Theatre; directed and acted in several plays; written six books of poetry; and also designed a few homes.

“I have seen that women all over the world face the same issues. You can’t just blame the society and wallow in self-pity. You have to take charge of your life,” she says, in all earnestness. Through Sheila, the protagonist of Sandcastle, Shomshuklla captures the essence of a woman’s search for her identity.

The female search for identity has been a recurrent theme in her plays, too. “When Kali Theatre performed We Draupadis and Sitas at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the audiences loved not just the costumes and design, but they could also relate to the ideas we put forth,” she says.

It’s not about the destination, insists Shomshuklla, the search is important. “There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife. It is a difficult job, and thankless, too. I know it, I have been there…but you need to be true to yourself. Go beyond the roles society assigns to you,” she explains. “I want to be a good wife, loving mother, gracious host, and have a career at my own pace,” she adds.

When Shomshuklla wrote the script for Sandcastle about eight years ago, she knew it’s not going to be easy to make the film. “It’s not just because I am a woman; I don’t come from a film background. So, I started small, cast theatre actors I knew – even my maid has acted in the film - picked a sound technical team. And the film got made. Yes, it was very challenging. But, we made it happen,” she says, visibly pleased.

And she has every reason to be pleased and proud. The film has been garnering rave reviews at international film festivals. Sandcastle bagged the best cinematography award at the Tenerife International Film Festival in London last year, while it was nominated in the best foreign language feature film category at the London International Film Festival 2013. What’s more, the film is all set for a commercial release in India this week. 

“It’s not a masala Bollywood movie, but it’s also not an art film or documentary feature. For those who are familiar with world cinema, I am certain it’ll be a worthwhile movie experience,” she maintains.

So, what next? “I want to make a romantic film based on Rabindranath Tagore’s idea of love,” says the artist, who doesn’t wish to be constrained by labels and expectations.

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