Aruna Vasudev, who has been described as the “Mother of Asian Cinema” and whose name figures prominently in the volume Asian Women in Film (the list of 30 including only two other women from India — A
Aruna Vasudev, who has been described as the “Mother of Asian Cinema” and whose name figures prominently in the volume Asian Women in Film (the list of 30 including only two other women from India — Aishwarya Rai and Farah Khan), was presented a record four Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2015 — from Iran, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Hawaii.
The year also happens to be the 25th anniversary of Netpac, the organisation Aruna founded to forward the cause of Asian films, which has won international renown today.
Netpac’s members include film directors, artistes, writers and journalists from many Asian countries who serve on the juries of nearly 30 film festivals around the world, and present awards to the best of Asian films.
It all started in 1988, when Aruna launched Cinemaya, a unique magazine that introduced its readers to filmmakers from Asian nations like Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia — places very few had heard of at that time in the context of cinema.
Then came Netpac, which emerged out of a conference on Asian cinema that Unesco asked Cinemaya to organise in 1990. Netpac launched Cinefan, the Cinemaya Festival of Asian Cinema, in 1999. This festival drew the best of Asian films and filmmakers and almost outshone the country’s premier Internat-ional Film Festival of India. It was also one of the first festivals in the world that focused purely on Asian cinema, which today has become a big trend around the world. Aruna studied filmmaking in Paris, and during that time worked as a stagiaire with legendary filmmakers like Alain Resnais and Claude Chabrol. She went on to study photography in New York, went back to Paris to do her Ph.D., later returning to India to work with Satyajit Ray while he was conceptualising The Alien (which, however, never did get made).
Her personal connections with top filmmakers led to the Cinema Film Festival attracting some of the top names in Asian and international movies. Aruna herself has served on the international juries of nearly 40 top festivals, including Cannes and Locarno.
“Asian cinema truly has a standing of its own today,” she says with pride, happy that Asian filmmakers are winning prizes at the world’s top festivals. Her energy remains unabated, and last year she travelled from one end of the globe to the other, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Netpac — from Bangkok to Iran to Hawaii.
Her main wish now is that Asian films get more exposure on TV so that they can reach much larger audiences. She herself has written extensively on Asian cinema, including numerous articles, two books on Indian cinema, and edited/co-edited about 20 more.
It is not for nothing that she has been awarded the highest titles from two major film-producing countries — the Star of Italian Solidarity from Italy, and the Chevalier of Arts & Letters from France. The Tripoli Film Festival has named its prize for Best Writing on Cinema as the “Aruna Vasudev Award”.
But till now, little recognition has come her way from the Indian government, despite her valiant efforts to ensure global recognition for Indian and Asian cinema. Her late husband was a diplomat, and her daughter is married to a politician (Varun Gandhi), but Aruna Vasudev herself is well and truly wedded to Asian cinema!