Both Ranu Ghosh and Debalina Majumdar have carved out their respective niche areas as cinematographers in a profession and industry which has traditionally been dominated by males. Even though both of them have a working experience of more than a decade behind them, neither of them started out as such with Ranu studying Physics and Debalina having a degree on Comparative Literature. For Debalina it was her knack of photography which took a professional turn with a job in a TV channel while for Ranu it was a life changing encounter with the legendary Subrata Mitra which did the trick. Over the years both have relentlessly pursued their craft, shooting and directing films, acclaimed at home as well as abroad.
Ranu Ghosh speaks on the more practical aspect of being a woman in an otherwise thoroughly masculine film industry and even independent practices in India. Besides all sorts of usual sexist prejudices, the one that comes up most often especially for a cinematographer is the question of sheer physical strength since there is an equipment involved, of considerable weight. Throughout most of her initial years, Ranu’s challenge has been to continuously prove her worth as better than the rest. She shares an anecdote in this regard where her physical prowess came to be tested against that of the Gurkha Regiment of the Indian Armed Forces!
With Debalina Majumdar, it is more of a theoretical or a philosophical probe as to whether the moving image itself can have a gendered identity. She feels that other art forms can have that ‘feminine’ quality, like still photographs or even when a film is directed by a woman. But she harps on two points. Firstly, the gaze of the camera is male and finally, one should first think about why there are such limited options even when one is thinking about female cinematographers.
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