The overgrown grass near the Buffalo lake in the University of Hyderabad kept swaying in the monsoon wind. A girl is trying to wade through the grass but the grass doesn’t heed way to her and the voice from the documentary says, “Because of what we did to nature, nature doesn’t allow us into it anymore.” This was the theme of one of the small documentaries made by the students of the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad as part of the Documentary workshop held by the Department. 

Sourav Sarangi, a noted documentary film- maker was the resource person for the workshop. Sourav studied geology but later joined FTII, to learn film editing. He is involved in international co-productions as an independent producer and director. The few documentary and fiction films Sourav made have won awards and accolades worldwide.

The workshop that began on 31 October, 2019 was coordinated by Dr. E. Sathyaprakash, Associate Professor, Department of Communication. Students from the Radio and Television Production stream, alumni and faculty members participated in the workshop. The participants were exposed to various aspects of documentary making.

On the first day, the students got to engage with Sourav and learn the conceptualisation and theories of documentary making. The second day Sourav’s film, ‘Char… The No-Man’s Island’ which won the National Film Award for Best Anthropological/Ethnographic Film was screened. Taking a step away from the usual kind of round – table workshops, the documentary workshop saw students taking to the field, exploring lakes and the life around Hyderabad. The students were divided into three groups and asked to make short documentaries based on lakes around Hyderabad. The students selected Hussain Sagar lake, Buffalo lake and Wipro lake and made short documentaries. 

While the students faced time constraints in finishing up their work, Sourav giving his feedback stressed on the need to be open to criticism.” Documentary is about life, reality and emotions. Creativity is central to documentary and so is collaboration when you do group work,” he pointed out.

Dr. Satya advised the students on the necessity to do proper research before starting any work. “Proper research is mandatory before pouncing upon any work. Even in the digital era, the written word plays an important role. It binds the visuals and the concepts together and therefore its needed to research and read on the topic written related to your subject to find more about it before getting into shooting,” he said.

“The workshop truly expanded our perspective on documentary. Sourav Sir, provided us with concrete constructive criticism on the work we presented.   He was open to our ideas and was patient throughout our discussions no matter how convoluted they got. The assignment of making a film within limited time was also fruitful, since it allowed us to fail and learn from those,” said Sanjana Vipulla, MA Communication student.

Sourav also expressed his concern about the systematic exclusion of documentaries in the television field. Most of the documentaries end up in the archives. There’s a need for reaching out of the documentaries. There’s an organised, systematic, deliberate action of maintaining silence on many issues. Institutions like universities should give freedom to students and can help in inculcating this practise of speaking out truth among young media professionals,” he said.

The workshop concluded on 02 November, 2019.

Contributed by Sreelakshmi Prakash, Department of Communication, UoH. 

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