Film producer Sutapa Ghosh wants to be clear - not all Indian films are done in the Bollywood style. "We love Bollywood, but we're beyond Bollywood," she tells us. "The new generation has evolved into something new now. There was a stagnation for a long time, where we were doing the same thing over and over. Now, the younger generation is doing something different. We have documentaries, short films, off-beat independent films. We're doing so much more than we were even just ten years ago."
Ghosh is the organizer of the Indian Film Festival of Houston, which is now in its fourth outing. This year's fest has more than a dozen films showing over five days. Among the festival's offerings is Durba Sahay's An Unknown Guest, about an elderly woman who, neglected by her family, uses the newspaper obituary columns as a guide to local shraddh, or remembrance ceremonies, where, as an anonymous guest, she can enjoy a large, delicious meal. Ghosh says that, like all of the films at this year's festival, An Unknown Guest has a positive message. "That's been a constant for our festival, positive messages. Even if a person is going through a crisis, at the end you see a positive moment, a solution. I think that's what people need, solutions. We're tired of not having solutions in our lives."
What She Does: While Ghosh spends much of the year organizing the IFFH, she considers her work as a producer her main occupation. "I'm a moviemaker," the Calcutta-born Ghosh tells us. "I have always like challenges. I was working for a big corporation. I had a big salary and a happy life; I had nothing to worry about. But I took the challenge and produced my first movie with my own money. Everybody's life can not always be about driving good cars, wearing good clothes, owning property and then dying one day. I believe people have to give back to the community, to the human race, so that the world can be a better place."
Ghosh's first film was Utsab (The Festival) in 2000. That was followed by Titli (The First Monsoon Day) in 2002. She is planning on another production soon, though she hasn't settled on a project. "I've been nurturing some story ideas."
Why She Likes It: "Because I'm crazy," she laughs. "Actually, creativity is in our blood. The part of India where I come from, it's known for being a creative hub. Like Paris is known for fashion, the east coast of India is known for being creative.
"But more than anything it's the satisfaction. You work for 32 hours, 48 hours without sleeping sometimes, but at the end of the day, you're satisfied that you're doing what you love and that, hopefully, you're doing it well."
What Inspires Her: "The challenge certainly motivates me. I am Hindu and in my religion it's more than just doing for yourself, or your own family. It's about working to make the world a better place and that constantly inspires me. The happiness that I give to people with my films, or through the film festival, that is very inspiring."
Asked where she gets her ideas, Ghosh says, "I am constantly reading, constantly researching, constantly communicating with my fellow filmmakers. Staying in touch with other filmmakers keeps me thinking, keeps me moving ahead." Not that she needs much help in the motivation department. "People say that I'm not ever in one place. I can be staring at you, but at the same time, I'm in ten different other places, traveling 100 miles an hour. I am always thinking, now what? What's next?"
If Not This, Then What: "Nothing," she says flatly. "I believe what you are good at, you should do that. You waste your time doing anything else. I did my education and I was very successful in my field. But the day that I decided that I wanted to do this, to make movies and organize the festival, that day I decided I didn't want to do anything else. For me there's no one, two, three choices; it's only one choice."
If Not Here, Then Where: Like her choice of professions, Ghosh's choice of location is firm. " Nowhere. I don't want to live anywhere else. I love Houston. I was born in Calcutta and then I spent a lot of time in Rhode Island and I've traveled the world many times, but today, this is the best place to live. Not only because my family is here, no, no, no. It's because financially, medically, culturally, this is the place to be. I can go anywhere in the world, but after a week or two weeks, I get bored. I have to come back to Houston. I'm a very proud Houstonian."
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What's Next: I'm planning on making another movie. It's about time. Also, I want to do something for Houston. I've been trying for so many years to convince all my buddies to come to Houston to make their movies here. We have great incentives here. Rick Ferguson, from the film commission, is a good friend. We're constantly talking about what we can do for local cinema. It's not enough to have an audience. You have to have the writers, directors, actors here, too. I want to help build that."
The 4th Annual Indian Film Festival of Houston runs daily from October 3 to 7. Studio Movie Grill CityCentre, 805 Town and Country Lane. For information, visit the festival's website. $10 to $15 per screening.
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