‘The Personal is Political’ – The Documentary in India as mirrored in the films made by women film makers

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Saba Dewan will explore the evolution of the documentary genre in India as mirrored in the films made by women practitioners over the past three decades. She will also attempt to place the shifts in concerns and exploration with form witnessed in the documentary within the wider changing political, social and cultural context in India.

Saba Dewan is a documentary film maker based in New Delhi, India. Her work has focused on gender, sexuality and culture. Her earlier notable films include Dharmayuddha (Holy War, 1989), Nasoor (Festering Wound, 1991), Khel (The Play, 1994), Snow (1997) and Sita’s Family (2001). For the past few years she has been working on a trilogy of films focusing on stigmatized women performers. Delhi –Mumbai – Delhi (2006) on the lives of bar dancers was the first film of the trilogy; the second being Naach (The Dance, 2008) that explores the lives of women who dance in rural fairs. The third and final film of the trilogy is The Other Song (2009) about the art and lifestyle of the tawaifs or courtesans and has been screened widely. Saba is at present working on a book that explores the social history of courtesans in Varanasi and its cultural hinterland of western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The project has been supported by a fellowship from the New India Foundation.