Sweta Rai, renowned Bollywood-Hollywood director, talks to G20 about the importance of cinema in contemporary times.
Q. Tell us about your journey?
A. I grew up in a small town in India, worked in different cities in India before moving to Singapore, and then from Singapore to Los Angeles. My LA years were productive as early on in Hollywood I got to work with legendary filmmakers as a producer on various feature films. While watching the premiere of one of my feature films at the AMC theatre in LA, I realised I needed to bring some Indo-holly movies to the screen. That’s when Indo-Holly Films was born in my mind. Growing up in a small town and then living in various cities and countries gave me a unique perspective about life. It reflects in my films. Indo-Holly Films aim to collaborate Bollywood/Asian cinema with Hollywood bringing stories and talent from even the remotest parts of the world.
Q. Tell us more about your unique experiences in the saga of the Covid WARRIORS documentary you have put together at a time like this?
A. I would say the past 3 months have been a roller coaster ride for me. We are witnessing a pandemic, and I got to experience the life of the warriors of this pandemic from their eyes; it is an experience that can’t be expressed in words. I shot it from my home during the lockdown. I live by myself, and I had to go through all these emotional experiences by myself. The shoot was challenging. It was hard to shoot when I was not physically present, but that’s what makes it unique—just the footage straight from the doctor’s lives. I did direct them to shoot it through zoom and WhatsApp calls.
Q. What is your next documentary going to be about?
A. Ironically, my next documentary was supposed to be my first. I was supposed to shoot the “Skin” film in India, the Philippines, and Indonesia in April this year. It talks about the skin complexion biases women face in Asia. Then the pandemic happened, and I shot the pandemic movie first. When I saw the anti-fairness brand campaigns in India, I felt it’s the right time to bring this story forward. While the pre-production on this documentary has already started with the script that I wrote a couple of years back, it’s sad none of my script has changed. In fact, new elements are added to it- the biases still exist.