Remembering Kurdi, a film about past inhabitants of the census town of Kurdi revisiting the ruins of their homes, is filmmaker Saumyananda Sahi’s second feature. Sahi, a Philosophy graduate of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, also studied film cinematography at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. He founded Skreen Films with his wife, Tanushree Das Sahi. Films he has worked on have won several international awards. In 2014, he won the Best Cinematography (Long Documentary) Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival.
Excerpts from a quick chat:
His cinematic journey
I grew up in a village and my parents made the choice to not have a television at home. Throughout my childhood, I might have watched 2 films in the first 10 years of my life. When I was about 11, my elder brother brought a player home for the holidays. I vividly remember the 2 films that I watched. They were Stalker and Wild Strawberries. I was completely captivated and I decided that I would try to make films one day and that hasn’t changed. (laughs)
I had written about 5-6 scripts by the time I was 16. I first got my hands on a video camera when I was 15. I used to take still photographs before that. I’ve been working as a cinematographer for features and documentaries. As a director, I work primarily on documentaries. My first feature was Sunanda Bhat’s Have You Seen The Arana? and then I shot Kamal Swaroop’s Rangbhoomi.
The story behind Remembering Kurdi
I come from a very mixed background. My mother is British, my father is Punjabi and they chose to settle in a village north of Bengaluru. The sense of where I come from is not clear to answer. When I heard of this story of a whole community that has a clear cut idea of where they belong, I was interested in understanding what it means to explore the psychological aspect of it.
Why the film holds universal appeal
Every time I make a film, the first audience is myself. I look for what I want to learn, the people I want to interact with, the ideas I wish to explore. It ends up becoming a relationship. I hope that relationship is strong enough to embrace other audiences. It’s a universal story.
The question of where you belong is becoming more and more difficult to answer the more urbanized society becomes and the less direct ties we have with the landscape.
The people who have influenced me – not that I hope to be like them – are Mike Leigh, Abbas Kiarostami, Andrei Tarkovsky and YasujirÕë Ozu, among others.
I’m shooting my third feature, it’s fiction. Another film I shot is in post-production. It’s called Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon by Anamika Haksar. I also shot Sacred for Thomas Lennon. He’s an Academy award winning filmmaker who worked with around 40 filmmaking crews for this documentary.
Freshman tip for aspiring filmmakers
I’d quote Kiarostami, “All the films we make are homage to the mistakes we make.” (laughs)
In cinematography, we always deal with limitations in trying to capture reality in four sides of a rectangle. Limitations push you. Mistakes often lead to innovation.
Catch Remembering Kurdi at MAMI on:
DAY 6, OCTOBER 26, 12.30 pm at PVR ECX
DAY 7, OCTOBER 27, 1 pm at PVR ICON