Sreemoyee Singh’s ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’: Seven years in Iran : The Tribune India

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Sreemoyee Singh’s ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’: Seven years in Iran

Sreemoyee Singh’s ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’: Seven years in Iran

A still from the film



Monica Arora

Sreemoyee Singh’s ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’ is a gem of cinematic brilliance, a symphony on Iranian poets, filmmakers and, most importantly, women. Here are women who go on living with grace and dignity, refusing to be quietened, despite the stifling environment around them.

Kolkata-born Sreemoyee chose to study English at Calcutta University but felt restricted by the fact that there wasn’t much room for “creative development”. “I was drawn to poetry in my early years and wanted to pursue writing. Cinema happened almost accidentally when I discovered a course in film studies at Jadavpur University. My deep immersion in the vast world of Indian and world cinema began there. I fell in love with Iranian films. I’ve never been a film buff. Even when I first set out to shoot in Iran, I had watched only a handful of documentaries.” It was then that she took up a PhD project centred around Iranian cinema. This marked the beginning of her research on contemporary artists and filmmakers of Iranian cinema. “Of all the films I watched from around the world, I found myself mostly connecting with filmmakers who had a poetic approach to cinema, whose main focus was not necessarily to build intense dramatic tension, or put the viewer through a roller coaster of emotions, but create a space for reflection and wonder.”

Sreemoyee Singh.

As her fascination for Iranian film culture grew, she got drawn into the worlds of filmmakers like Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Shirvani, along with personalities like human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh. For her, these men and women were a metaphor for the spirit of resilience and conviction in a stifling socio-cultural milieu. Sreemoyee wanted to showcase their voices. She spent seven years shooting the film in a personal documentary format. What emerged was a “personal, self-reflexive and poetic” film ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’. It premiered at the Panorama section of the Berlinale in 2023, besides winning the Best Feature Film at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema.

Part of the 16th edition of the recent Habitat Film Festival in New Delhi, ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’ is an ode to the films of the New Wave in Iran and the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad that spoke of everyday resilience in the face of stringent censorship.

The title of the film is inspired by a powerful poem of Forough, ‘Gift’, which translates into ‘Hediyeh’ in Persian. “In Berlin, a lot of Iranians came to see the film. Everyone told me, ‘Thank you for not victimising or villainising us, thank you for celebrating us...’ I could do so because the Iran I experienced was on its way ‘towards happy alleys’, the happy alley being a metaphor for life, hope and a light that awaits you at the end of a tunnel. The alley of happiness is there, and it will be reclaimed. The journey is towards reaching that bright alley. We (Iran, India, and the world at large) are all on our way towards happier alleys,” says Sreemoyee.

She goes on to add: “The documentary is the journey of an Indian who learns Persian and travels to Iran to find out how art and expression find utterance despite adversities. Thus, it was imperative for me to use my voiceover to thread the various elements of the film together. From merely being an observer, I became an active participant in the film, and one of the characters. You see me singing, hear me laughing with my protagonists, who often turn the camera towards me.”

Her spirit towards celebrating life is enchanting and her words resonate as a sort of suggestion towards a more meaningful existence.

#Environment


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