Zooming in on unusual tales

Not all filmmakers are as fortunate as documentary filmmaker Yasmin Kidwai, for every time she is out on a project, some interesting topic worth being converted into a documentary lands in her lap. This is the sole reason why Yasmin was able to do over 30 documentaries in less than 12 years of her career. And recently, the Delhi-based filmmaker opened the “Jeevika: Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival” at India Habitat Centre with her film No Problem! Six Months with the Barefoot Grandmamas.

“It is pure destiny. Every time I am out doing something, a new subject comes before my eyes,” says Yasmin. She was out enjoying a polo match much before the game’s heydays, and the idea to make a documentary on the game came to her. She then made Chukker: Around Polo. She was working on a project for Help Age India, and decided to make a documentary (Where do I go from here) on ageing.

“I always see it like this — either you go to the film or it comes to you. No Problem… could not have been further away. I was in Rajasthan for a project when I came across this story of illiterate African grandmothers, who come to India to study to become solar engineers. I knew I had to tell this story,” says Yasmin, who followed these women for six months at Barefoot College in village Tilonia, Rajasthan till they completed their course and became solar engineers.

“The film has already won so many awards including Best Documentary at Zanzibar International Film festival, Best Documentary Jury at Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival and was nominated at Golden Award at Aljazeera International Documentary. And now it officially opened the ‘Jeevika’,” says Yasmin, who comes from an illustrious family of politicians. Her father, Imran Kidwai, was the secretary of the All India Congress Committee and her grandmother is veteran politician Tajdar Babbar.

However, politics was not what Yasmin veered toward. “I studied PR and journalism at St. Xaviers’ College, Mumbai, before working with Mahesh Bhatt, followed by a stint at NDTV. But I felt this is not something I can do and decided to turn filmmaker. This is how documentary making happened,” shares Yasmin, who started her own company Spring Box Films in 1998.

Now she is so involved with her work that there is hardly any time to relax. “Documentaries take a lot of time and you have to work really hard on everything from research to shooting. I remember Chukker took four years in the making. Another documentary I made on veil called Parda hai Parda consumed me totally. No Problem! took eight months. Despite shifting back to Delhi from Mumbai, I am hardly home. I am always travelling for shooting or researching new subjects.

“If I am ever going to stop, all I’ll do is to sleep and relax,” ends Yasmin.

Read the story in Asian Age