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“The craft of film editing has risen above gender stereotypes,” says national film awardee Arjun Gourisaria

ZEE5 documentary 'Shut Up Sona' Arjun Gourisaria

The National Award-winning editor says working on the ZEE5 documentary ‘Shut Up Sona’ was a great learning experience

‘Shut Up Sona,’ a 90-minute unapologetic, award-winning documentary based on the musical and personal journey of singer and composer Sona Mohapatra has received glowing reviews. Interestingly, the film weaves a seamless, insightful, and cohesive narrative even though the film’s editor Arjun Gourisaria had to work with over 300 hours of footage shot across the length and breadth of India. Not surprisingly, Arjun’s impeccable work won him the Best Editing Award in the Non-Feature Film category at the 67th National Film Awards.

He says, “The documentary is a take on Sona’s journey as she takes on misogyny and injustice at multiple levels. It had to hence capture her relentless quest for gender equality, dignity and agency. The edit had to ensure that we captured her as she is. Not as a victim of societal exclusion and prejudice but a courageous voice speaking out about issues that are hardly addressed. The key idea the film needed to convey was that artistic expression, be it in cinema or in music is no longer a male prerogative. Powerful and gifted artists like Sona deserve equal space, respect and opportunities.”

From long shots portraying isolation to intimate glimpses of energetic arguments and introspective silences, Arjun, supported by sound engineer Niraj Gera and director/cinematographer Deepti Gupta, made sure that the editing did not belittle the message of the film.

Arjun says the craft of film editing has risen above gender stereotypes and it is time the entertainment industry did too. He adds, “In the editing space, we have had proficient editors like Renu Saluja, Yasha Ramchandani, Shruti Bora, Meghna Manchanda Sen, Deepa Bhatia and Namrata Rao. Editing is a collaborative process and has no place for gender stereotypes. The same shift should happen at a societal level as well.”

He concedes that editing ‘Shut Up Sona’ was a learning experience for him and says, “I got a better idea of what Sona went through and as an artist myself, I could resonate well with her experiences. It was an educative experience to interact with Sona and Deepti Gupta, the director of the documentary and one of the few female cinematographers in the country. Through their perspective, I got more insights into the journey women go through in the realm of creativity.”

Sona adds, “Shut Up Sona’ was shot over three years as I travelled across the length & breadth of India. My friend & director, DOP Deepti Gupta was my sister-in-arms in creating this love letter to my country & Arjun Gourisaria our editor was the magician who distilled 300 hours of footage into the 90 minutes on screen. Arjun had the toughest task of editing a protagonist who can speak for hours on end without taking a breath, a technical feat to say the least while having the sensitivity & nuance to retain the emotion of a scene. That Arjun is a connoisseur of music in the truest sense, someone who plays the Mohan Veena & a fiery feminist himself helped in telling my story in the most authentic manner. He was also the perfect choice to edit the music & live singing into the narrative seamlessly. Very few editors could’ve pulled this off in the manner Arjun has & I feel immensely blessed that he agreed to come on board.”

The national award-winning documentary is currently available on ZEE5. Besides bagging the National Award for Editing, it has also won the Best Documentary Award at IFFM Melbourne in 2021, Film Critics Guild Award Special Mention at MAMI, Best Documentary Award Indie Meme, and Impact Docs Award, US.