Sanchari Das Mollick's voice falters as she admits that editing in Bollywood is dumbed down to cutting. "Editing is an invisible art," she says. So, what is editing? It surely isn't just the process of creating faultless finished projects. An editor's mark is around the entire film. While the actors and cinematographer play the principal role in the production process, it is the editor's responsibility to merge their footage to create a story. This involves spending long hours, sometimes for days at a stretch, in small rooms, in front of the computer. What must it be like for female editors at work?
Here are a few examples of struggles that these women editors face:
1) Dirty Bathrooms
Sounds trivial, right? But it is probably one of the major issues for women editors that the Indian film industry doesn't want to recognize. "When I'm on my period, I need a clean bathroom and basic stuff like soap, toilet paper and a dustbin. The sad part is that this doesn't even occur to people who own and manage these locations and studios," says Antara Lahiri, editor of Simran.
2) Comfortable Chairs
An editor's job requires them to be seated most of the day. With the expectation to do 12-hour shifts, a good ergonomic chair will go a long way. "Editors are restricted to one space. In order of priority, I would say a good chair is the most important aspect, because we work really long hours. Even the best of studios has terrible chairs. The industry owes editors at least that much," says Charu Shree Roy, editor of Lucknow Central.
3) Work Space
An editor is confined to a small room. A clean, organized and hygienic space is important to focus on the edit. "I have gone and done 'jhadu', because the production didn't pay the 'kaam waali' and she stopped coming. For the next four days nobody cleaned, and I couldn't stand the dirt anymore. I had to go buy a 'jhadu' and 'pocha', do 'jhadu-pocha', and then start my editing. I used to reach work at nine in the morning, and for the next two hours I used to just clean my work space," recalled Dipika Kalra, editor of Udaan. "What kind of a creative input would I provide when I'm thinking about cleaning before starting my edit," she says.
4) Time off
"12 hours a day is a very good day. Aaj mein ghar aa gayi (I came home today). 'I had a bath today'. Our joys are derived from very small things," says Mollick, editor of Shaandaar. An editor's job entails being cooped up in a small space for months on end. Kalra says with a sigh that taking Sundays off does not go well with many of her clients regardless of working long hours 6 days a week. "Family time, just doing nothing, or even going out for a walk is important for me to recoup and re-energize."
5) Need for Inclusivity
"Aap technician ho. Aao, edit karo aur chale jao (You are a technician, edit and leave). Maybe people want it that way. I think it is advantageous for an editor to be involved in the process of filmmaking. The whole process is a collaboration. It is about being together. About trust. About one voice. That is how history is made. Otherwise we make what we make. Every good technician's struggle is to find creative voices that resonate with them and who want a collaboration," says Roy.