Known for editing International films like Slumdog Millionaire, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Million Dollar Arm, and India’s Daughter, Anuradha Singh is India’s only female film editor working in Hollywood. For her, the journey was fortuitous and getting recognition in Hollywood is a blessing. During a candid conversation with Asma Rafat, in her tiny editing bay, she explains her love for film editing, a woman in the film business and working in Hollywood.
Let’s start with your experience of BBC documentary based on 2012 Delhi gang rape. Your experience of editing India’s Daughter!
Our (Me and Leslee Udwin) intention was pure. The motivational factor for me in doing this documentary was the will of the people who came out on the streets of Delhi in support of Nirbhaya in zero degrees. Look, emotions are universal, and we were working on an issue that has global appeal.
Two instances could define its impact: First was in Brazil, after screening of the film, one man came up to me with teary eyes and said, “This film has changed me. I was a different person before watching this film.” And the second instance was when Meryl Streep called upon my name and asked me to come on the stage. That was the most celebrated moment of my life.
In a field of editing which a comfortable and relaxed job as compared with other technical roles of the film industry, why we see fewer women in the area?
To be honest, I feel, women are the best editors because they have firm control over their emotions and cinema is all about it. Women can make a good choice under any circumstance. See, for instance, Thelma Schoonmaker, Alisa Lepselter, and Sally Menke, who were synonym with films of Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Quentin Tarantino respectively. Or in India, Namrata Rao, Aarti Bajaj, Renu Saluja or Bela Sehgal.
But this job is demanding; it needs 24X7 dedication. And one finds self-confined to a cubicle at odd hours, which cannot be possible for most of the woman. This job is insecure, so you have to be mentally secure and does not have a much social life. I think society’s outlook is changing, and women are making conscious decision to choose a career of an editor.
How was it working in Hollywood and your collaboration with Danny Boyle!
Working in Hollywood means organized, fair and transparent. People are honest in their approach. The jobs are divided, and delivery of work has to be on time. You have to prove your mettle. Nepotism doesn’t work, the only talent matters. Danny Boyle is like a film school to me. Each day was a learning experience as I got to understand filmmaking in a better and transparent way.
Being a woman from a small village, how difficult was it to move out and work. What was your family’s reaction?
I was the first girl of my entire family to move out to a big city. No girl ever dared that before. Everyone thought that this girl has gone insane. When I shifted to Mumbai, everyone had stopped talking to me and used to refer me as ‘mad’ woman, but I know my destination and never cared about what others think.
My mother still doesn’t know my nature of work. Dad understands, and he is proud of me. But now perceptions are changing, and my relatives are trying to make contact with me again.
It seems you have dedicated your life to work!
The only thing that gives me peace in life is my work. My editing machines are my friends and let me experiment each morning. I feel contended when my work gets appreciated and applauded. I think I was born to become a filmmaker. Life has been tough for me, but it is beautiful. We have to see that other side of life. I am mentally very secured. That makes me a settled person.
What would you define as your legacy?
I am an honest and creative person. I am loyal to my work. And that’s my legacy. They have incredible power to change one’s life. I saw a dream, and it came true!
If you want to be different, you have to walk an extra mile; otherwise, you will end up being in a rat race. Make your journey. Imagine a woman having her roots in a village (Wazirganj), making it to mainstream Hollywood cinema.
What is your next project!
I am looking forward to releasing my documentary movie, which I was planning for a year now. This documentary is close to my heart as I feel for the cause (will not reveal the name as of now), so I have decided to handle all three aspects. I am the cameraperson, the director, and the editor.