Sourav Sarangi is among the most revered and acclaimed documentary filmmakers of India. After graduating from Film and Television Institute of India, he began working in television – as an editor, as a director of telefilms, and turned out to be one of the most significant figureheads in the changing face of Bengali satellite Television. He made his debut in 1996 with the documentary Tushu Katha, which dealt with the Titular festival, observed and celebrated in the tribal-dominated areas of West Bengal and Jharkhand. He followed it with Bhangon in 2008. His third film, Bilal, which follows the life of a young boy raised by blind parents, has been shown at over 40 film festivals worldwide and won eight awards. His latest film Char – The No Man’s Island (2012) won the National Film Award for Best Anthropological/Ethnographic Film and many other acclamations across the world.
Talking about his passion and profession as an editor and a filmmaker, Sourav Sarangi looks back to at his early days when mainstream films in India were a highly over-the-top affair and documentary filmmaking aesthetics were extremely underdeveloped. There were public governing bodies funding and screening documentaries and every other film and filmmaker followed a given pattern. In order to deviate from this practice, Sarangi keeps his practice and area of work out of compartments and definitions. It is about communicating a story without keeping in mind the aesthetic and stylistic parameters. In fact, throughout his body of work he tries to maintain this sense of honesty especially during the filmmaking process while dealing with the subjects. It enables him to seek negotiate with challenges of intrusion and establish a human exchange of dialogue which in turn becomes the strength of his films without becoming exploitative.
Sourav Sarangi also discusses at length about his approach towards the very idea of editing a documentary, a job he considers to be no different from directing a film. In fact, he believes that in case of documentaries, editing like reverse script writing, which is capable of giving a complete new direction to the film. Such attitudes can of course result in direct creative as well as personal conflicts with the director but Sarangi believes in keeping all sorts of avenues open during the editing process instead of having a narrative in mind and seeking it in the images. He considers the film to be a delicate alchemy between what happens during shooting, editing and the process of filmmaking.
On another note Sourav Sarangi discusses about the politics of positioning Camera between the people in focus and the people behind the camera in a documentary film-shooting situation.