Pradipta Ray is an award-winning film maker. She has a bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from the Govt. College of Art and Craft, Kolkata, and a PG Diploma in Animation Film Design from the National Institute of Design. She is a guest lecturer at the National Institute of Design Ahmadabad (visual communication) and works as a film maker and design consultant for feature films and television.
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‘You know, I don’t think I was ever confused. I always felt like a woman. I remember, as a child, I was often called to weddings within my extended family. I was known for my talent at drawing the chandan (sandal-paste) bindis for the bride. I loved drawing those lines of dots. Those days you drew them way beyond the length of the eyebrow—half-way through the cheek, actually. On many occasions I’d notice the groom being forced to walk bare-chested, as was the custom, and I would be terrified. How could a man walk around like that, it must be so embarrassing, I’d tell myself. I knew I was a woman. I couldn’t dream of walking around bare-chested like that. I also remember throwing a tantrum for a frock I once saw in a window display. It was so pretty and I knew I wanted it. My mother refused to let me buy a frock, but the neighbourhood aunt, who loved me dearly, bought it for me and then insisted I wore it. I was embarrassed again, but soon, I wore the frock like it was the most natural thing in the world for a boy to be doing. You know, in school it was much easier. There were four of us who identified as women and the authorities didn’t seem to mind it one bit. We wore make up whenever we wanted and even though this was a Catholic school, the teachers never really treated us like we were different. When we went on tours with the school, we’d get special protection. A room was allotted for the four of us in between the teachers’ rooms, I guess, to keep us safe. The school played a huge role in helping us understand who we really were. My family wasn’t worried at all. My mother only feared that I’d lose my complexion by wearing harmful make-up. She was strictly against chemicals. Everyone accepted me and often more than not, neighbours indulged me in my identity of being a woman.’
‘My mother also wanted me to pursue a degree in NID and so it automatically became my focus. I really wanted to pursue film and NID seemed like the best choice. I was quite popular at NID, popular enough to be called back as visiting faculty. I guess I was most popular for making “trans” people acceptable in that institution. I was hijrotic—a fabulous transwoman—a term quite popular in NIFT and NID circles. My life at NID channelled me towards films and in a few years I managed to finally make my first film.’
‘After graduating from NID, life caught up with me and I moved to Mumbai. I worked in TV for a while and tried making ends meet. I guess reality struck me during the recession (2009–2011) when I was making no money at all and had to shop for vegetables with my credit card. A friend from Gujarat who visited me then showed me the mirror and reminded me of what I’d started out to achieve. There was no turning back after that.’
Pradipta began working on Raat Baki in 2011 and it was completed by 2012. The short film was shot on a tight budget, but received an overwhelming response. Raat Baki won the Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker at KASHISH 2012.
In 2013, Pradipta decided to work on a non-Hindi project. Eidi, in Bengali, became his second short film to hit the festival circuit.
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Pradipta’s next was with a gay-horror theme. Guy Next Door premiered at Kashish in 2015.
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