Kinkini Sarmah: the face behind the camera

 BY TERESA REHMAN

 Feisty and matter-of-fact, she has even cut long name short. Kinkini Kusukm Kashyap Sarmah, probably the only female cameraperson of a satellite television channel aired from Guwahati, calls herself just Kinkini. She has completed five years as a cameraperson in the regional television channel DY 365 and is more than happy.

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“Photography and videography has been a passion for me since my early childhood,” she says. This young gritty girl from a non-descript village Milanpur in Tangla in Assam’s Darrang district decided to pursue her dream to be with her only love – the camera. She convinced her teacher parents to allow her to be trained in the nuances of the camera at Guwahati’s Photography and Vocational Training Institute (PVTI). Clad in a pair of jeans, t-shirt and the photographer’s jacket, she is ubiquitous with the television crew of DY 365. She adds, “My male colleagues don’t think of me as another woman. They feel I am part of them.”

 

Northeast India has witnessed a media boom especially with electronic media. More than six television channels are being aired from Guwahati city itself. The fledging media industry has absorbed a lot of young talents who are keen to carve a niche for themselves and Kinkini is one of them.

 

She finds her work thrilling and not without its moments of excitement. She recalls an incident in 2011 when she was near the busy Maligaon railway station in Guwahati. There were some women selling illicit liquor and she and the reporter decided to take some footage and do a story. “Suddenly, many women surrounded us and started pelting stones at us. I had to save my camera. Usually, it’s the camera that is attacked first because the footage is there,” she adds. As she continued recording, she could see a big stone flying at the camera. “I ducked to save the camera and it hit my head,” she adds. As she was being attacked, she held the camera in hand and ran for around 1 km. “I felt something itching on my head. I could see blood oozing out and my hands were full of blood. My t-shirt was stained with blood. I went to a pharmacy and called up my office. They immediately sent a car for my help,” she adds. But her name was flashed on the television screen and this alarmed her parents. “They rushed to Guwahati. I had a tough time convincing them that I was fine. They even tried to dissuade me to leave this profession,” she smiles.

 

She wants to do a lot in life with the camera. She has completed her Masters in Communication and Journalism from Gauhati University. “I have a passion for the camera. The camera is my life. I want to see the world through my camera. I want to reflect the mind of a person through the lens of the camera,” she adds.

 

She enjoys working 24X7, mostly on the field and sometimes on the studio. “It’s a grave responsibility when we are going live on air. Then we have to be careful to get the visuals inspite of all constraints. “Sometimes, we even forget to drink a glass of water. We are so engrossed in our work,” she smiles. She does cover gory crime scenes and murder but she does not enjoy doing it.

 

It’s true that people expect to see her on television when she tells them about her work. “Though the camera is the heart of the electronic media, a technical person is not given due importance. It’s not true that you will be recognized only if you appear on the screen. I want people to know me off-screen,” she adds. She also wants to indulge in still photography and even work for the National Geographic Channel if she gets a chance.

 

She has matured over the years. “It has become fashionable to appear on TV. Sometimes, people even try to give us directions on what to shoot. They try to use the media for their personal gains. We try to restrain ourselves and analyse the situation first before bringing out the camera. Sometimes, we even hide the camera and try to gauge the situation,” she adds. She also feels that every day is a learning experience. “We need hands-on training on sensitivity on gender and ethnicity while working with the camera as well. I am ready to learn and hone my skills.”

 

She has no big plans for the future. But she is going to stick to her profession. But she wants to document the Northeast. She wants to explore the unexplored region. “I want to focus on the richness of this region through my camera,” she says.