Priya Seth on life and underwater cinematography - Part III

Priya Seth, one of the few female cinematographers in the country, on career, life and underwater cinematography
Priya Seth doing what she loves the most - underwater cinematography
Priya Seth doing what she loves the most - underwater cinematography


Continued from Part II



Seth owns a film studio which houses around ten sets, in Dahisar. Ellora Studios is a licensed studio on a 4.5 acre campus. It offers a variety of air-conditioned floors, ready sets, and outdoor locations for the film fraternity. “I founded this studio with my brother seven years back, and dare I say – it is a full-time job! Film consumes my entire universe,” said Seth.

The sets are massive, housing everything from restaurants and hospitals, to bungalows, gardens and colonial architecture. “I am very proud of my studio,” smiled Seth.

Seth, along with three other female cinematographers founded the Indian Women Cinematographers’ Collective.
The IWCC is a forum by and for craftswomen/technicians of the film industry, based in India. The Collective is designed for contemporaries to showcase their diverse body of work. The association extends its solidarity to women, especially ones just graduating from film and media schools, who need a platform to showcase and network. The world of cinematography and its allied fields, such as gaffing, grips, and assistant cinematography, is growing wider to accommodate talent. The Collective hopes to inspire women and those breaking out of the gender binary, to consider roles behind the camera as viable professions.



“We wanted to understand, how many women are at various stages of their cinematography career. There is no ‘sir/madam’ here. We have kept it a very informal exchange of ideas and even jobs at times. Twice a year we get together, have many drinks and have a great time. There is no junior or senior. We are very proud of this initiative,” noted Seth.

Seth believes that while it is nice to do different kinds of work, it is important to not be bound to a particular genre. When asked about what she loves to shoot the most, Seth joked, “Good scripts and good actors. That’s where the difference between shooting an ad and a film comes in. The play of emotions and feelings in film cannot be seen in an advertisement.”
When asked about how she balances her work life and personal life, Seth said, “When one is young, he/she doesn’t have to. You hustle, you take jobs. As we grow older, we make choices about doing other things as well.” When not shooting, Seth likes to read and keep in shape. “Underwater takes a lot of flexibility and stamina. We shoot 8 -12 hours a day in water,” she explained. 

I have worked for so long, there is a part of me which is nostalgic. I value that old process of filming and the traditional photo-chemical process.

Seth concluded, “I also mentor. I am happy to give time to young professionals. It is nice to have mentors, wish I had them back then. Consumption of content has increased. It is imperative for young aspiring cinematographers to go back and trace the stepping stones. The history and evolution of film goes back 400-500 years. It started with paintings, photography, and then eventually – movies. If you don’t have the vocabulary and the ability to visualise, how will you shoot? Self - learning cannot stop. Cinematography is not just visual. Living, experiencing, travelling, seeing light in different places, helps one imagine and sums up an experience. Any artist has to be emotional, slightly crazy. Otherwise, it is ridiculous to be doing these jobs!”

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