An Interview with Varun Trikha (Director)
Freedom on the Doorstep
Q: As a man, why did you decide to make this film about rekhti? And can you tell us the difference between rekhti and rekhta?
VT: Rekhta is mainstream poetry in Urdu. Rekhti is the feminine version of this, but in actuality many of the authors of rekhti have been men. It’s about passion, and so there’s the aspect of men consuming it, too, but I don’t think it’s just that. Because for more than 100 years rekhti was treated as exclusive, today much of it is lost. That it gets lost is not the problem, the problem is that people don’t know that it has been lost. In this film I wanted to portray the parts that have been lost and, using present day Delhi as a stage, to reconstruct that world.
Q: So how do you think about the relationship between women and poetry?
VT: Poetry, to begin with, is like a lens through which to view the everyday. If you can see the everyday with sufficient depth and intimacy, and from a slightly different angle, the things that you see will take on different meanings. In this film, an example would be the steps in front of the entrances to homes where women talk. When I went to ask women for their permission to shoot this film I would say, “May we film this in your house?” and they would say, “The men will be angry, so no.” “Well, how about in the street?” I would ask, but they would reply, “No! All these strangers will be crowding around.” “Well, how about in the entryway?” I would ask, and they would finally agree to appear in the film.
They are not free inside of their homes, and the outside is the same; outside is not theirs. The steps in front of the entryways, these extremely limited spaces, are the only places where they can be free. It occurred to me that poems are expressing that kind of free space, and for women they are special. Even when a man is the poet, the protagonist of rekhti is a woman.
Q: A genie appears in the second half of the film. Why, in this reproduction of a poetic world, did you think to have the genie appear?
VT: With this film I tried to resurrect the worldview of rekhti in the present day, but when it comes to talking about this I always harbor misgivings, because in truth I was drawn in by the fact that many authors of rekhti were men. I also doubted whether I, as a man, could really enter the world of women. It was there that the genie appeared to help me.
A genie is a spirit of smoke, and the women write letters to him, and come to a cave to worship him. Thinking to enlist the power of the genie, and to have him lead me through the women’s world, I secretly read a number of these letters. What I found was that there were very few letters about the women themselves, but rather that they were praying for the people in their neighborhoods.
In the letters that were supposed to hold the women’s aspirations I could not find their world. Maybe it’s fair to say that it has been lost. And yet in the end I arrived at the notion of “hope.” This hope is not an affirmative hope, but rather a kind of hope without hope, and it became the inspiration for me to think deeply about prayer and hope. Right now I am filming another piece about the answers hidden inside a fortress, and maybe I can say that this is about “hope,” too.
(Compiled by Harashima Aiko)
Interviewers: Harashima Aiko, Kano Megumi / Interpreter: Paul Yoshitomi / Translator: Tyler Walker
Photography: Inagaki Haruka / Video: Suzuki Noriko / 2015-10-11