Vol. 5 Num 319 Wed. April 20, 2005  

In Conversation
Shameem Akhtar: Filmmaking is her forte

"When making films, my twin obsessions are women and the Liberation War," says Shameem Akhtar, who is also an advisor in the fortnightly Anannya magazine. A director, scriptwriter and journalist, two of her feature films based on these sensitive issues are Itihas Konya (The Daughters of History) and Shila Lipi (The inscription). In her words, "Women's issues are related to the War--when you talk about a liberated country you talk about a country where there are women. When you look at the status of women, you have to take history into account."

She has won recognition for excellence in filmmaking. She was the recipient of the Anannya Award in 2000 for Itihas Konya.

Shameem hit the film world in 1991 with the short feature film Shey, as co-director with Tareque Masud. She also did the scriptwriting for the film. The storyline: A single mother brings up her child as her husband has gone abroad. There has been no news of him for seven long years and his wife has almost given up the hope of seeing him. In the meantime, she lives with an elderly uncle and tends to him as well.

Subsequently the husband returns home. The whole film deals with what happens next. Though Shey is a joint production, in a lighter vein, Shameem says, "Tareque fathered the film much better than I mothered it."

In 1994 Shameem made a documentary film, The Eclipse, on the fatwas that were being hurled against women. The other people who worked on the film were Shaheen Akhtar from the Ain o Shalish Kendra and Makbool Chowdhury.

The audience's response to her works has been fairly good, says Shameem, "These are films which deal with reality. They have been admired, " she says. Among her favourites in the filmworld are Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray, Aparna Sen and Shabana Azmi.

There have been several technological changes in the filmmaking process, believes Shameem. For one, she cites the examples of the digital camera, which has revolutionised film shooting.

Explaining why women's issues hold her interest, she says, "It is not just emancipation, it is much more than that. It is also liberation--my freedom of choice, freedom of expression, everything all combined. A man is born to be free but women aren't--."

And what's in store for Shameem in the near future? More feature films, she says unequivocally and maybe documentaries. The theme, as always, will be about women and their socio-cultural aspirations.

Shameem Akhtar