She watched 500 hours of footage before she started editing The Elephant Whisperers. Meet Sanchari Das Mollick, who spoke with News18 from Los Angeles and said that getting Oscar in the Best Documentary Short category was unbelievable and a miracle. She also spoke about collaborating with The Elephant Whisperers’ director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga. Excerpts from her interview:
What’s the feeling now?
It hasn’t sunk in at all. I think it will take 6 months - sometime in September I will sit and I look back and then think, ohh something like this has happened. It’s unbelievable, it’s like a miracle has happened, we are just elated. Every minute we are pinching each other, asking, did it actually happen? Is it real?
Can you take us through the journey how you prepared and what you felt when all this happened?
Actually it started earlier, when the nomination happened. We all wanted to come (to LA). Initially it was difficult then Netflix wrote to the embassy and we got the interview on time. We came here and we were very excited. First time in LA we went sight seeing. There were other events before the Oscars.
We were happy to be nominated and were happy to be here. In our heart we felt like already we have won. We hoped to win but we were happy. This time it was a champagne carpet. We saw other people. Then the event started, all the categories started and we were waiting for our category. Then they announced our category. What a feeling when the envelope was opening! When our name came up we jumped and screamed!
Everybody is asking me what was the feeling. I really now can say that it is like when Dhoni hit a six in the World Cup. We were screaming it was amazing.
You have a connection with Satyajit Ray. Your grandfather built Calcutta Film Society, your mother is a documentary filmmaker. How did you decide to be an editor?
When I was child I wanted to be an architect, it so happened that I did Mass Communication in college. In third year, we all had to make a film and I landed up editing it. It was on Bangla bands. I enjoyed the process and then I took the decision to go to FTII and study editing.
Is it a dream come true?
It’s not even a dream! It’s so unreachable, no one has done it. I mean so few have reached here. We were thinking maybe Cannes, maybe Berlin or Toronto, those are the dreams but Oscars was un-dreamable.
It was a great team of women producer, director…
So it was Kartiki who approached me and she got my name from Netflix. She saw my previous film Nal, which my husband directed, that was about a child who finds out that her mother is not her real mother. She therefore zeroed in on me. She might have thought I can do justice and I love animals.
Guneet Monga is known for working in a different way in Mumbai. She has maintained a voice. She is a powerhouse for us. This was the first film of Kartiki but she always knew what she wants from the film. She was focused and was not bulldozed by others, that’s why it is different.
What did the team talk about after the win?
The team was in shock none of us could think anything, there was lot of media. I don’t think they got time to settle also. Guneet always believed that we will get it, she said in Mumbai that we are going to bring the Oscar back home.
It was 500 hours of footage that you started work with in Goa?
It was long, we worked for more than a year. Kartiki knows what she shot and I had to see the entire footage, then we made notes and discussed. That’s how it took shape. Kartiki was very clear about what she wanted to say.
Did you felt that this was different and this will work well?
I thought it was different because I love animals and the camera work was very good, the camera was taken very close to the elephant. They actually went there and became friends with the elephant and shot very close. It was my first documentary, they managed to get shots of the elephant doing regular things, it was not easy.
Are your parents, especially your mother who is documentary filmmaker, or your husband, your inspiration?
I have grown up watching films, my earliest memory is of films. All kinds of films, my parents have helped me to watch different types of films. Even when I go back home my parents tell me, have you seen this film? They gave me exposure that is priceless. I have seen my mother putting her heart and soul into a film. That’s a great inspiration. My husband is also a tremendous inspiration. When we got nominated and we did not have a visa, he said you have to go, you’re going to win. He pushed me. He is the man behind my success.
Any interest of coming to Bengal and working?
Oh, obviously! I would like to work in Bengal. That’s my place, it has not happened till now. My message is - tell stories that that you identify with, audience will also connect with your work. Work hard and your dream will come true.
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