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Kavery Kaul on mission to explore ‘shifting sands of culture’

Kavita Kaul's documentaries tell stories that cross boundaries to explore the shifting sands of culture, race, class and belonging.

New York: Kavery Kaul is addressing the engagement between people of different cultures and faiths via her film “Streetcar to Kolkata”. The filmmaker, who is a name to reckon with in the world of documentary-making, says she likes to pan the camera to mirror the “shifting sands of culture, race, class and belonging”.

Kaul shared that her journey from India to a different culture of the US turned out to be an inspiration for her to explore the film-making business.

“Every family has its own treasure chest of stories. I grew up with stories about India’s fight for independence from the British and the partition that followed. And then, there were stories of life at the sometimes-challenging, sometimes-comic, always-memorable intersection of the India my family came from and the America we came to. For all of us, the stories we’ve heard shape our beliefs, our practices and our perspective of the world,” span.state.gov quoted Kaul as saying.

Kaveri Kaul interview Image: Youtube
Kaveri Kaul interview. Image: Youtube

A graduate of Harvard University, Kaul has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Artist’s Fellowship, multiple New York State Council on the Arts grants and two National Endowment for the Arts awards.

Also Read: Khundongbam: A young filmmaker who wants the world to know about Manipur

The Fulbright Fellowship gave her the opportunity to research and film her latest documentary “Streetcar to Kolkata”. Kaul teaches at Columbia University in New York, where her courses include works by people of different races, cultures, religions and genders.

Kaul, who picks up subjects like brain injuries, Calypso music, religion and Cuban art, added: “In my case, as a student at Harvard, I heard that a new and unusual course on the films of the Indian director Satyajit Ray was being offered by an Englishman on the faculty. How could I not be inspired by Ray’s nuanced stories of the human experience in the face of overwhelming social and economic forces?

“In those days, I also frequented New York City’s art-house theaters. There, I saw Sarah Maldoror’s ‘Sambizanga’, a film about the Angolan War of Independence against the Portuguese. It was such a strong, moving story of a struggle against colonial powers. These stories held resonance for me. These directors made me want to be a filmmaker too.”

Talking about cross-cultural themes, she said: “My documentaries tell stories that cross boundaries to explore the shifting sands of culture, race, class and belonging. Like the girls in ‘Long Way From Home’, I attended American independent schools and, later, an Ivy League college.”

As an advice to young Indians boarding flight to the US to pursue a career in the arts, Kaul says “Keep an open mind. Remember that America means Mark Twain and Toni Morrison, Junot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri. Take it all in. At the same time, hold on to who you are and the creativity that only you can offer as someone whose artistic vision stems from India, even as those roots mingle with your discovery of America.”(IANS)

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