I am all of you, says Maya, a character in the film, to a room full of women as she jives and revels languidly. Thus, begins the international trailer of Shomshuklla’s award-winning film, Sandcastle. The film’s experimental and poetic style has characters indulging in soliloquies, looking inwards, seeking their identity and, in some ways, marking each person’s journey to finding themselves.
“It is a script-heavy film. What else can you expect from a poet and theatre person? I have stories to tell,” says Shomshuklla, a poet, film director, thespian and singer. The trailer reveals only female characters and sure enough, a woman’s search for her identity forms a significant theme in the film. Sandcastle, which releases in India in March 2014, won the award for Best Cinematography at the Tenerife International Film Festival in London, 2013, and has been nominated in the Best Foreign Language Feature Film category at the London International Film Festival. The film will be screened at Hollywood’s LA Femme Film Festival in October. “I knew I would do a good job of it, but I did not know that it would be as well received as it has been at festivals over the world,” says Shomshuklla.
“The film is about the journey of a woman aged around 30-35, who finds her voice in a patriarchal society. She has a daughter who is just six-years-old but already has formed her own opinions. This is a journey of the new generation. Through the film I want to tell people not to be hopeless about life,” she adds.
Sandcastle may mark her debut as a film director, but Shomshuklla is no stranger to the world of art. She has recorded several music albums, directed and acted in plays and written seven books of poetry. In fact, the casting of the film was an easy task for her as most of the actors are from the world of theatre.
“As a singer I did everything I could imagine. I sang Jazz, Rock, R&B. When I felt completely fulfilled with the work I had done as a musician, I moved to writing poems. It was a natural growth in my journey to express myself through art. Simultaneously, I also began to dabble in theatre. I started my theatre group Kali Theatre and directed many plays. I wrote the script of Sandcastle in 2004. It stayed with me. Challenges stimulate me and while being a part of music videos I thought why not make a film?”says the director.
One thing that binds Shomshuklla’s motley ensemble of work together is her choice of off-beat subjects. As a poet, her form of choice is haiku, as a thespian she uses symbols in nearly all her plays and has performed home theatre; and as a singer she infused Tagore with fusion. “I was always into Rabindra sangeet and thought that people tend to put Tagore in a box. I wanted to take him out of that bottle and expose more people to his music, so I recorded Cafe Kalighat,” she explains. Deeply influenced by European cinema, Shomshuklla’s work resonates with experimental touches. “In one play I used chalk instead of blood and in another I showed Sita as a rebel. Sometimes, the only colours I have used in a play are black and white denoting good and bad.” Kali Theatre performed its play ‘We Draupadis and Sitas’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where audiences were awed by their costumes, design and ideas.
Juggling her interest in different arts has been a fun ride for Shomshuklla. When asked about what she wanted to do with her life when still a child, she says, “I just wanted to be free and have fun.” With an interest in handiwork and embroidery when she was a child, Shomshuklla indulged her creative spirit under the guidance of her mother. Her father, who grew up in Shantiniketan, pursued music as a hobby and encouraged his daughter to do the same.
Women, love, nature and social causes are themes that run through the various avatars of her creative expression. Her seventh book of poems Easy, launched in December 2013, places poems along with photographs (clicked by Ritam Banerjee).
Shomshuklla is thrilled by the success of her first film and is planning to make more. She is also working towards making her mark in the burgeoning market of graphic novels by penning her own book. The Neruda and Rumi enthusiast plans to settle down to writing a book of plays. While Shomshuklla’s ideas are creating a buzz in the global film festival circuit, her fans must wait for her next venture in the world of art.