Sumitra Peries. All photos courtesy of Uditha Devapriya and Sumitra Peries.
Sumitra Peries. All photos courtesy of Uditha Devapriya and Sumitra Peries.

A Southasian filmmaker unlike any other

On Sumitra Peries, pioneering Sri Lankan film auteur.

The past several decades of Southasian cinema have introduced technicolour spectacle, summoning vivid evocations of romance, action and history. This is one of the biggest film industries in the world, and today it has transformed into iconic categories of its own. And yet, while uniquely observant, Southasia's cinematographic gaze often objectifies women, representing them as transcendent symbols of imposed standards and expectations. Although many scholars have written on the region's mainstream film industry, few among them have noted the contribution of women pioneers – both in the field of representation and in highlighting the importance of women-centric stories.

While attempting a chronology of women filmmaking in Southasia is no easy task, the first key figure in this regard is Fatma Begum. In 1926, Begum made her first film through her own production house, Fatma Films. Later, in Pakistan, 'Sangeeta' Parveen Rizvi and Shamim Ara made their debuts as directors, while later in Bangladesh, Kohinoor Akhter, popularly known as Suchanda, followed suit.

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