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Sreyashi Sen

Film Distributor

She is clear that the films she distributes must resonate with the audience and tell untold stories. "While every film is made with heart, the key is how they will be told and presented. 'Darpan' has a special outlook on distributing the film in a myriad ways and partnerships, and not just checking the box on publicity. Selecting audiences that are already part of special interest groups that echo with the idea of the content..." Singapore-based Sreyashi Sen, the only woman film distributor in South and South- East Asia told us. 'Darpan' started as a film festival wanting to bring in for the first time in SE Asia independent Indian films to Singapore as regional independent films from Indian subcontinent were not available for audiences there. "I had been on the media development committees and cultural festival advisory teams and thus a festival 'Darpan' (reflection/mirror) that would integrate through the arts. The festival ran for a few years which then paved the way for a greater number of independent films from the Indian sub-continent to see distribution commercially in Singapore and South East Asia," said Sen. Talking about the challenges in launching Darpan, Sen feels that creating something that's not been done before will face challenges. "That's perhaps the beauty of it. An entrepreneur's life is about risk taking and facing a lot with a smile. I have made mistakes and learnt from it. I believe that every experience leads to evolution. I have made amazing friends in the industry and outside who have given respect to the work I do. I have challenged my limits too many times. Not just letting my challenges limit me." On the fact that she happens to be the only woman film distributor in the region, especially for Indian content in theatrical distribution, she points that it has been an interesting journey, with joyful memories of setting benchmarks. "Though the distribution market is still very patriarchal, breaking those barriers has been a challenge but a happy one." Currently working on two international co productions and one reality show, besides two web series that are in the development stage, she is also directing a documentary, marking her debut as a director. "The Covid crisis, in a way has allowed me to read more scripts and have intense discussions across borders with fellow producers and filmmakers," she said. Even as most film-festivals across the world including in India have gone digital ever since the pandemic hit last year, Sen believes that that once physical screenings start again, we will value festivals more. "A film always gets its respectful pride of place in a theatre with an active audience. Nothing can be more warm and reassuring for filmmakers. But what this pandemic has also done is taught us different ways of looking at work. Different models that help us appreciate what we have. I miss festivals and markets even as a producer and distributor, but what virtual meetings and markets have taught many of us is how much we can still be together despite being miles away. People have become more appreciative of one another and perhaps we have much more time in hand which we may have otherwise lost in travel." The distributor, who was part of 'Celebrating Women in Cinema' recently organised by the French embassy in India says that such discussions were key to forming policies, making workplaces more conducive to men and women and developing cross border partnerships all in the spirit of telling beautiful stories. Believing that the OTT boom in India has led to a scenario where audiences have started appreciating actors across the board and not just super stars, she feels that there has been a tremendous increase in employment opportunities. Adding that the only safeguard in place needs to be quality of content which should not suffer due to the numbers being churned out, she said, "While we realise the Indian audience is not homogeneous and content made needs to cater to all we also need to look at diversifying from the usual story-lines which only allows the evolution of audience. What pains is the recent trend of direct to OTT for some of the bigger commercial content in features. Or the short theatrical window that is becoming a worry for chains. Yet, while it troubles me as a distributor, my producer hat sees the rationale on money time. We need to reach a better middle path as an industry to hand hold one another in these very difficult times especially for theatrical distribution. This perhaps has been enhanced due to the pandemic, but a gradual decline in movie going audiences was already a reality pre-Covid. Maybe this phase will allow us all to think deeper for a better path for all."



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