I am The Item Girl of Documentary Films


I am The Item Girl of Documentary Films

She is not a Manolo Blahnik woman but within seconds of meeting Paromita Vohra,you can be sure why Blahnik would love to conquer her. She has verve and nerve and walks tall without stilettos. Let’s start feet up then,as a nod to Blahnik. Vohra wears ochre sneakers,thank you. Yellow polish on one hand,orange on another; brown lipstick,a funky bag,a large cocktail ring,jazzy earrings and a pair of jeans with a blue cotton top. An uncanny mix of individuality and an almost absent dread of being judged. If she takes off her sneakers,you will spot green toenails,she threatens. “I am the item girl,the Rakhi Sawant of indie filmmaking,one day I will make a documentary featuring Rakhi and me,” she laughs. An intimate conversation is boiling soon. “Intimacy is not physical,” she argues,“it can be political,momentary,intellectual and emotional.”

Vohra talks about dressing as artistry,her years at Delhi’s Miranda college and why copyright issues could change the way we view films and art. A noted independent filmmaker and writer,Vohra,43,insists she is an artist. She also wrote Khamosh Paani,a much-awarded French-German film of 2003.

At the UFO 0110 International Digital Film Festival last week,Vohra screened two documentaries: Partners in Crime,her 10th film (first screened in 2011),about the growing menace of illegal downloading of music,films and creative work. And,Morality TV and Loving Jehad: Ek Manohar Kahaani,on the language of “exposes” and breaking news. Partners in Crime is of particular relevance today,as the world of cinema and music is rife with issues of derivative work and illegal downloads. If Saif Ali Khan is entangled in a copyright issue due to Pyar Ki Pungi,a song from Agent Vinod,then recently,in a big move to prevent piracy of music,the Indian Music Industry (IMI),blocked 104 websites that facilitate illegal downloading of music.

Vohra’s film meanders to nuanced characters,a Sayed Osama too if you please,who talks about piracy as a triumphant urban trend. Pornography for married aunties,music for the kids,new Bollywood films,he has them all. Vohra’s narrative suggests why the word “illegal” doesn’t even strike people who are involved with downloading movies or with music piracy.

She resists a moralistic take. “Filmmaking is about performance,it is important to be non-judgmental. We shouldn’t watch films just with our bodies. This is non-fiction work,it requires a lot of respect and consideration because people allow you into their spaces as they decide to trust you. That’s why my concern is never the absolute truth,” she adds. She rubbishes notions of romantic angst around indie filmmakers and the pomposity that they are intellectually superior to mainstream films. “It is obviously not easy to be an independent artist but it allows you to be in an honest space. Documentary films offer conflict resolution,we can’t just complain about not having sponsors and the inconsistent interest of TV channels in our work,” she says. She adds that her chutzpah in dressing,the fact that a section on her website Paro Devi is called Paronormal Activity spill out from the same world view that possibilities outweigh problems. “I am fat,Punjabi,cheerful and I don’t like breast-beating,” she says. That’s why Blahnik would so love her.