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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

I Am 100% Blind And Deaf To Those People Who Think My Gender Defines My Capabilities: Aleya Sen

  • IWB Post
  •  May 20, 2019

“I don’t really understand this concept of how someone’s gender governs their capability to do anything. How can you say that XYZ work will be difficult only for a woman to accomplish? Anyone can be passionate, dedicated, crazy for what they do. And as a woman director, I can assure you my gender is so not hindering me from giving my best and the ones who think otherwise, well I am 100% blind and deaf to the presence and comments of such people!”

Kudos to writer and director Aleya Sen for her devil-may-care attitude! Co-founder of one of the top production houses, Chrome Pictures Pvt. Ltd, Aleya has created a niche for herself in a predominantly male-dominated industry with her zeal to excel.  

Excerpts from a conversation we had with the woman behind the camera:

As a new director, you must have noticed a shift in Bollywood with respect to stereotypes, which are disappearing. You have years of experience in ad making, Aleya, is there a similar progress in the advertising world?

Definitely! Ads have to evolve with time and they are. Like, earlier, for an ad of a cooking oil, if a man was shown wearing an apron and cooking in the kitchen, the product would have never sailed. But now, there is nothing unusual in it and, in fact, such representation is appreciated as it is reflective of our changing society.

But even though our society is changing, do you think, as a woman in a male-dominated profession, that women’s empowerment is happening?

Women’s empowerment is one thing, but ultimately it is we, who as individuals, have to walk across and make it happen. You have to find your way, you cannot wait for some revolution to just appear. Who knows, maybe you are the wonder waiting to happen. Break the rules, the norms.

Aleya SenA romantic comedy film, Dil Juunglee, released in 2018, was Aleya Sen’s directorial debut and starred Tapsee Pannu and Saaqib Saleem, a couple Sen had previously directed in a T-Series music video.

How was the experience of making your first film, Aleya?

Oh, I seem to have established my reputation now that I am someone jiski dahaad sunke hi log disciplined ho jaate hain (we both laugh). Haha! And as for directing my first film, my years in advertising more or less simplified the process of direction. But the script of Dil Juunglee is very close to me and turning it into a film was a memorable journey for me.

Well, seeing that you loved your first filmmaking experience, can we expect another film from you soon?

Of course! As I hate to serve the same thing repeatedly, the next one is going to be on a completely different subject, definitely not a love story. It is going to be much darker.

Ooohh! That’s going to be something. So, Aleya, you must be aware of nepotism in Bollywood and, as now you are a part of the industry, what’s your take on it?

For me, your acting abilities shouldn’t be judged on the criteria of the surname you carry. Your parents or your relative cannot suffice as the reason for you to get a role in a film, it should always be what you bring to the film- your skills as an actor. I believe in giving a fair chance to everyone who deserves it, no matter who they are. It is only ethical.

True that. And talking about ethics, we came to know that you follow a ‘zero plastic’ policy during the shoot of your ads.

I try to minimize it as much as I can. Small things, like when food is served to the crew and cast members we do not put it in plastic trays just because it would save us the trouble of washing plates. No plastic bottles either, no matter how convenient they are. Also, every time we have an outdoor shoot, we make sure to plant trees at the location.

She is also the co-founder of an NGO called Phool Versha Foundation, which offers services like medical assistance, sponsorship to children with multiple disabilities, assistance to the elderly and rural development in the impoverished sections of society.

What led you to set up the NGO Phool Versha foundation? Are the causes it supports close to your heart?

It was a sense of gratitude, I guess, an inborn feeling to contribute to the universe in whatever way I can.

Aleya Sen

She co-directed and produced the Silent National Anthem, featuring kids with hearing and speech impairment who sang the National Anthem in sign language, in 2011. It won the Bronze medal at the Cannes Lion and Gold in the Goa Film Festival. She directed a music video, as part of Salaam Bombay foundation’s anti-tobacco campaign and it won the Best Music Video award at the Dadasaheb Phalke Film Awards. Also, in 2015, her ad for Wagh Bakri tea, ‘Rishton Ki Garmahat’, won the Best Film Award at the 2015 Dadasaheb Phalke Film Awards.

Today your production house, Chrome Pictures, is listed among the top 3 Ad Production companies in the country. What do you think is the reason for this success?

When we, me, Amit Sharma and Hemant Bhandari, were very young but we had no inhibition or fear. We believed in ourselves, in our capabilities and we still follow the same principle, we are passionate about what we do and always strive towards outdoing ourselves, doing better than what we did.

This article was first published on August 25, 2018.

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