She’s often mistaken for the cinematographer who shares her name. We’re talking about Sejal Shah, a journalist-turned-documentary filmmaker. Shah has finally graduated to making feature films and her first one, Hasmukh Pighal Gaya under Sanjay Dutt Productions, is well on its way.
I started my career as a journalist with the Week magazine and worked there for around eight years. After that, I did a filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy and then started making documentary films.
I made two documentaries called I Joginis – Servant Of God and Mangala Tamasha Party. I made them while travelling. Since I was a journalist, there were many people who helped me research my films. I learnt that all one needs is good content to make a good film. So while travelling, I used to talk to people and collected plenty of stories. When making a documentary film, there is little or no planning involved. You come up with stories while talking to people.
Documentary filmmakers don’t have much scope in India
Both my documentary films received international awards. But when I came back to India, I realised documentary filmmakers had no standing, never mind getting a theatrical release for their films. You end up showing them on Discovery channel whereas some countries have a dedicated documentary film channel. That’s why no one shows any initiative to make documentary films. In fact, no one in India has watched the documentaries I have made.
On Hasmukh Pighal Gaya
I wrote this script while I was making short films, a satirical comedy. When I started approaching producers, I also approached Sanjay Dutt Productions, which liked the script. It’s a comedy. They understand a director’s worth. Indeed, there are times when things threaten to go haywire but, then, it’s up to the director to manage that.
Right now I am only thinking about Hasmukh Pighal Gaya but I have a couple of scripts that I will start looking at once I finish this film. For a filmmaker, their first film is very important as it is one’s chance to show your talent.