Life is short, youth finite, but there exists limitless opportunities. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.
The ability to recognize opportunities and move in new – and sometimes unexpected – directions will benefit you no matter your interests or aspirations. And it is this ability to recognize such opportunities that made Anandana Kapur a leading voice in Delhi. I had a very interesting conversation with her the other day and she walked me through some of her experiences and insights on how to find success and happiness: with persistence and preparation.
Me: What made you choose this career path? I can see that you actively engaged with a lot of projects, even when you were still in college. When I was in college my main priorities were to get back home and play video games. What was your inspiration behind it all?
Anandana: I would say that it is only off late that I am trying to fashion a path. The last decade was about testing convictions and hopefully the next shall be about consolidation so that I can use my work to create more value-ripples than before.
When you look back you recognize some continuities and that is what makes you want to take it to new places. I now call myself a filmmaker and a door-to-door professor because that defines best the kind of work I do!
I have always been a people’s person and recognized early on the important link between self-expression, self-esteem and mobilization. During my undergrad, I was drawn to debates about self, structures of social thought and even discovered a deep passion for a DIY way of work. Then images seemed to always occur in my writing and work, so I ended up settling on film as a site for all that I wanted to do/convey.
Philosophically, it’s always been about using my work (film, writing, workshops) to talk of what is relegated as the ‘everyday’ and forgotten or marginalized. I also deeply value a sense of humour and think that in satire lie seeds for some engaging conversations about the future.
Me: Being a people’s person, and being very expressive of your interests don’t necessarily get one much opportunities. One has to constantly be seeking them out. Even then, it is very slim and the concept of internships and work experiences and have-it-a-go sessions are fairly new in India. Yet, you somehow managed to get it all right, back when avenues like this were very few and scattered. How did you go about it? How did you manage to get involved with projects such as UNICEF and others?
Also, did being in Delhi have a lot to do with it?
Anandana: ‘Getting it right’ is not as important as making it right! So, I would disagree that being in Delhi granted me easy access. I am a rank outsider to the ‘cultures of affiliation’ that operate in this city and so I owe a lot to a very patient family that saw me make one unconventional career choice after another. I also sought work hungrily just to be able to experience the scale at which communication and film work operate. Many a time it was unpaid, under paid or even plain donkey work! Today, internships are more professionally moderated whereas when I was fresh out of college we had only apprenticeships and terms of work were not always democratically decided.
Over the years though, work assignments have introduced me to colleagues who are also geared to developing works that can transform as well as engage. Finding convergences in what we want to do with our lives led us to do the work we do. This could be a case of – good ethics begets better! As for communication for development projects, it has to do with the filmmaker/academic self being rolled into one! One is able to bridge research and message design with production and review courtesy one’s training and work experience. My own interest in rights based work and recognition of its criticality keeps me motivated. There is also a stimulating creative challenge in behavioural change communication – how do you design to create dialogue and then sustainable action? Most filmmakers would be drawn to that!
Me: But Delhi did play a role in shaping your career, didn’t it?
Anandana: Yes. Delhi is where I found my roots and its own history has shaped mine. Whether it is striving for equal space as a working woman, finding my feet in a city where the culture of affiliation very quickly becomes a culture of nepotism or discovering many wonderful people who have also anchored here and carry refreshing perspectives. Delhi also has a vibrant independent media practice and that is encouraging too. Delhi is familiar but does not make me fall into a comfortable lull either.
Me: I want to steer this away to your hobbies – you’ve got an awful plenty that it makes any average man weep. Your persistence and preparation have taken your hobbies to its highest levels, and you to places. Today, with all this competition around, children even the age of six are forced into routines and classes so that they can boast of it in their soon-to-be-written resume. Do you think that level of (forced) commitment is necessary? Can hobbies be what they once were – something we did out of love? Have you even felt that you have stopped enjoying something because of all the expectations – both yours and others?
Anandana: (Laughs) You know hobbies are a serious pursuit disguised as leisure! I do not agree with burdening your kid to be Picasso and Mozart and Pele rolled into one. I think society is unsparing and it is even a struggle for parents to keep up. That culture just seems horribly unfair to me, it also surreptitiously positions someone’s pursuits as ‘better’ than the rest. My parents always encouraged me to pursue my interests and I think I was the one who dragged them in different directions – dance, debate, writing, photography! At the same, they always insisted on a thoughtful reflection on whether I was giving my best or making excuses. You couldn’t be a lazy kid where I come from. You could not (and still not) sit tight on your laurels. You’d always be advised to keep working hard.
In terms of expectations, I am my own worst critic. So, I am geared to keeping at it for myself! Expectations of others are in fact the wind beneath one’s wings on difficult journeys.
I think you need to give things time, be patient but inventive and playful. Have fun as and when you can. Smugness and seriousness can be afflictions.
Me: What advise can you give to those wanting to tread the same path as yours – an adventure?
Anandana: Seek people who care about the same things you do and recognize that sometimes opposition is confirmation that you have got the right hunch. An intense engagement may not be for everyone but respecting time and consequences is a great way to proceed. Avoid those who are intellectually smug like the plague because if you can’t appeal with those beyond your immediate bubble your art/work will be rendered irrelevant. Finally, update yourself by listening to people, learning new things and celebrating the small wins.
Anandana Kapur is an award winning filmmaker and communications designer. Previously an executive producer for a TV network, she has also worked on information and video campaigns for GOI and UNICEF, India. Anandana’s documentaries explore the sub-culture of gender, identity and practice in India. Her films ‘Much Ado About Knotting’, ‘The Great Indian Jugaad’, ‘Chamba Nede Aa ki Door’ (Is Chamba Near or Far?) and ‘Blood on My Hands’ have received critical acclaim in India and abroad. Her films have screened in over 35 cities globally including national broadcast networks.
As visiting faculty she teaches courses on Communications Theory, Research Methods and Documentary Practices to post graduate students. A committed interpreter and lifelong student of Cinema and Culture she also has published works on the same to her credit.
You can learn more about her and her films at http://www.anandanakapur.com/.