2017 Hot Docs Filmmaker Profile: Vaishali Sinha (Ask The Sexpert)


A longtime sex advice columnist gains popularity while a ban on comprehensive sex-education in in one-third of Indian states schools holds.

Highly taboo, the topic remains controversial, making the practice of 90-year-old Dr. Mahinder Watsa all the more impressive. To millions of Mumbai newspaper readers, his column acts as institution and lifeline. ‘Ask The Sexpert’ highlights a dance between desire and censorship, with narratives in playing out against heated debate.

‘Ask The Sexpert’ screens as part of Hot Docs 2017 May 1 – 3 in Toronto, Canada. Anticipating the festival screenings, we spoke profile the film’s Director Vaishali Sinha. Find more information and tickets for ‘Ask the Sexpert’ at Hot Docs 2017 – HERE

What was the first aspect of ‘Ask the Sexpert’ that made you want to tell this story at the feature length level?
I felt the topic of sexuality and sex education was broad enough that I needed the time a feature length film would provide, in order to explore some aspects of it.

And then the sheer volume of work that my film’s primary character deals with further reinforced that this had to be a feature length film.

This would also be the first ever film on Dr. Watsa who has been doing this work for decades. So I was interested in making an intimate portrait film that would be a window into a larger world.

Describe the visual strategy behind the film? How did your approach to its photography develop over its production? Was there ever a moment of significant adjustment from your original vision?

My interest lies in telling an intimate character driven stories. So I wanted the filmmaking to reflect my subject’s world as much as possible. Also, my central subject is in his 90s but is quite sharp so that juxtaposition to is a theme through the film.

I also had the great pleasure of working with the wonderful Indian cinematographer Anup Singh on this film. Anup is always two steps ahead and very alert about his surroundings and the subject he’s filming. He’s also a great listener which is one of the most important things in documentary shooting I think. There were also a couple of other cinematographers who worked on this film from time to time (we shot for 4 years) including the talented Adri Thakur, who I’ve collaborated with in the past.

With the film hitting Hot Docs, describe how you plan to further expand its accessibility to wide audiences?
My producing partner Mridu Chandra and I are very excited that the film will be traveling to more film festivals, so look out for announcements! The film is also in co-production with ITVS, so we’re on a path to TV broadcast in the US on PBS (public broadcast service). And I’ve been told the film speaks a universal language so we’re looking forward to being able to share widely.

Can you talk a little about the design aspects of the film’s branding…for example, choice of font, color, and the development of its poster. How do you view the branding strategy of the film?
We have been working with a design outfit in Mumbai called Pigeon & Co. on our poster and website. Like the rest of Mumbai they are well aware of the column and read it too, so we really hit the ground running that way. They’re also really talented designers who have done some amazing work. We started talking to them 2 years ago when we provided them with a work sample of the film and had some in-depth conversations. Our current poster was one of their very first sketches for us and we’ve loved it ever since. Details of it were partly developed over a period of time as we were looking for the right window of time to release it. But they’ve always had a strong vision. I’m now happy to say it’s out there in the world and received really well at least among my network of friends and family and facebook page fans.

Finally, if you could describe your film in one word, what would it be?



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