Several years ago, the Roys—a family of film buffs— piled onto a scooter and headed to a local theatre in Buxar to watch Hum Aapke Hai Koun..!, a newly released Hindi film. The youngest in the family, Charu Shree Roy, had watched in stunned silence as Renuka Shahane rolled down the staircase in a scene from the film. That compactness of that scene has stayed with her through the decades and has been the magnet which drew her to films. So entrenched is her love for films that every corner of her home—from the masks on the walls to the lamp shades and a lot in between—mirrors this passion. She is married to Amit, a naval commander, who also embraces his wife’s passion with equal gusto.
For Charu, a first-generation film maker in the family, Bollywood is an experience she will never trade for another. She embarked on a career in films as a director and writer of short films. In 2013, Roy wrote, edited and directed a short film entitled Chasing The Rainbow. It won the National Award for the Best Promotional film and, in 2016, the Audience Poll at the Washington DC South Asian Film Festival. She also edited and directed the film Chinese Whispers in 2015, which won critical acclaim. Several successful features she has worked on across genres include, Haramkhor, which streamed on Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar, Lipstick Under my Burkha, Lucknow Central, Chhichhore, Bombay Begums (Netflix series), Sui Dhaaga, Ankahi Kahaniya (an anthology series on Netflix), Break Point (a documentary on the lives of tennis duo Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati) and Killa, the Avinash Arun directed Marathi film which won the National Award. It was her first independent editing assignment.
“I come from a small town where the only source of entertainment was films. My dad would rent a VCR and film cassettes and we would try to watch about five to six films every weekend. He would fast forward songs or some scenes and I wondered if there was a person who did such fast forwards for films too,” said Charu tucking a strand of hair behind the ears. It was a visit to the Patna Doordarshan centre for a quiz competition—when she was 12 years old—which hooked her to film editing. After the competition, of which she was part, the students were taken for a tour of the Doordarshan studios. “There we were shown an analog editing machine which could tape and cut and paste everything later. I was fascinated. Probably this marked the beginning of my journey into film editing,” reminisces Roy.
An alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), she is today living the prophecy of her Chemistry teacher who had told her that he saw her as a filmmaker. Though her parents, Ravikant and Reeta Roy, taught her the motto ‘Whatever works for you’, her father had dissuaded her from a career in filmmaking, as, with limited means, Bombay was “too far away to pursue a dream”. The FTII motto—‘No one teaches you, learn on your own’—has stood her in good stead in the decade that she has been involved in filmmaking. Her first project was to assist Amitabh Shukla (of Chak de India fame) with the film Commando, starring Vidyut Jammwal. Ironically, it was after the success of Killa that job rejections came her way. “The struggle happened after Killa and I learnt the ways of the world. For three years, I was in and out of films—films I was signed for and then removed from or did not get called despite a fantastic interview with filmmakers. I told myself that if I had to be rejected, I may as well be rejected by the biggest director. Nimish Tiwari had just made Dangal. I got his number and sent him a text saying I wanted to work with him. He replied asking me to meet him. I did and later worked with him.” Her dream is to work with Hollywood director Martin Scorcese.”
(This appeared in the print edition as "Cutting Edge")