An interview I did with the makers of a wonderful documentary that's playing in theatres in Bombay, Bangalore and Gurgaon this week:
As students in different parts of America’s Bay Area in the 1980s, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam made a joint thesis film about the Californian Sikh community. The New Puritans: The Sikhs of Yuba City was well-received and they have been working together ever since. Their films on Tibet-related subjects, including The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche (1991) and The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet (1998), were commissioned by the BBC. In 2005, they made their first feature, Dreaming Lhasa, with Richard Gere as an executive producer. Their last documentary The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom (2009) won awards at Prague, Kerala and MIFF, and got a US release, running for two weeks at the legendary Film Forum cinema in New York.
Their latest is When Hari Got Married, which is currently being screened as part of the PVR Director’s Rare programme. It’s a heartwarming film about how life is changing in India, and how it isn’t.
Excerpts from an interview with Ritu Sarin:
How did the idea of making this film first emerge?
We’re interested in that point where traditional cultures meet modernity. How do they adapt? What is lost and what is gained? Having lived in Dharamshala for 16 years, we’ve seen a lot of changes. Also, we’ve known Hari since he was a 16-year-old. He lives in a village right behind our home. He had invited us to come for the wedding. But it was when he told us he’d got hold of his fiancee’s mobile number and was talking to her every day that we became interested in filming his story.
Indians have arranged marriages all the time. Why was Hari’s marriage interesting?
First, the urban-rural divide. Though Hari is quite a forward-looking person, he was having a very traditional arranged marriage, where for two years after it had been fixed, he had never got a proper glimpse of his fiance. He would only get to meet his wife after they got married. This is still the norm in rural areas. Second, it fascinated us that Hari had taken matters into his own hands by getting to know Suman on the phone. It was such a good example of technology meeting tradition...
Read the full interview here, on the Firstpost site.