The Chennai girl is looking for scripts for feature films as well as exploring a range of non-fiction subjects to find hidden jewels in the form of hitherto untold stories. Sruti Harihara Subramanian, an emerging name among filmmakers in the city, has been accustomed to using the power of communication with film, design and curating to tell a multitude of stories from India’s vast cultural heritage. In the world of films, Sruti has established a niche for herself in terms of style and subject matter with a poetic flow in shedding light on her subjects, who include some of the leading names in art and culture.
“Each and every moment was very memorable and encouraging for me in working with Rahman sir”, shared a cheerful Sruti while talking on her exposure in the music series Harmony. Coming from a family background which never gave her much of a chance to go to the theatre, it was during her high school days that she started realising her love for films while going to the cinema with friends. She was, however, very active in music and dance classes which she attended along with her sister and went on to become the school’s cultural secretary.
Her activities began to include theatre, poetry recitation, nature activities, singing and dancing. “When finally I had to make a decision on what career to take, I chose films because that would be the place where all my interests come together. Movies give me the opportunity to implement the knowledge I have in these departments as a director to put it all together to make a film,” Sruti shared while talking on what became her real passion.
Going for a lot of treks and camps gave her the visual inputs that helped in her emerging as a movie maker later. A student of visual communication from MOP Vaishnav college, she was the 2nd runner up in the ‘Miss Chennai’ contest in 2002 after getting the ‘Miss talent’ title and that was young Sruti’s first time in front of the camera. Her exposure became huge afterwards as she was to feature in almost 100 commercials. Working in front of camera helped her to think ‘how it is to be in a shoot’ and became even more curious about what it would be like being behind the camera.
While looking for a good opportunity in films, she was noticed by director K Balachander. After finishing college, she got a small stint in the Tamil serial ‘Sahana’ under the famous director. She was then cast in the serial Chidambara Rahasyam with director Naga. She worked for close to seven years as an assistant director in mainstream movies in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.
“After that, when I decided to fork out on my own as a filmmaker, I was asked by a corporate to document an artist painting. And I took it up like any other corporate project to make a little money,” added Shruti while speaking on her debut feature film project — a 73-minute long narrative documentary A Far Afternoon (2015), shot in Gurgaon. “But when I reached there I found there’s a lot more story into it, more than just a documentation,” Shruti said of the legendary Indian artist Krishen Khanna’s. The 89-year old artist started painting, which Shruti independently documented and the work became a 20-foot artwork in about a year, with the artist describing his own story.
The film project ultimately went on to win two awards at the 63rd Indian National Film Awards for ‘Best Art & Cultural Film’ and ‘Best Music’ for non-feature film’s category for its poetic and sensitively shot narrative. The film travelled to many festivals all over the world and was nominated for the Best Documentary at the New York Indian International Film Festival 2016 and at the Indian Film Festival, Stuttgart.
Prior to Harmony with AR Rahman, she worked in a music video on a poem by Tagore, translated by Javed Akhtar in Hindi —‘Sewa Geet’ sung by Kailash Kher — and travelled through the Himalayas, Rajasthan, Araku valley, Gujarat and Mumbai, showcasing India. She also worked on a documentary on an NGO based in Monaco, and into educational drive in Tamil Nadu.
Sruti chose to depict AR Rahman in a new light, capturing the nuances of his personality whilst focusing on the broader narrative of India’s rich and diverse music culture in Harmony. Her sensitivity towards art and culture, particularly through the medium of film, motivated her to set up The Cinema Resource Centre (TCRC) in Chennai. It is a not-for-profit public archive of Indian cinema designed to enable research on the audio-visual and cultural artefacts produced by Indian films, especially those made in the regional languages of South India. She also has her own start-up - ‘Golisoda Store’ — which is an online platform selling eco-friendly products to address her caring for the environment.