Despite the stigma that has led to Covid-19 patients being ostracized even by their kin, Dulam Satyanarayana, an award-winning documentary filmmaker from Telangana, chose to sit and chat with them and capture their experiences on his camera.
But it came with a cost with the 35-year old documentary filmmaker from Hyderabad, himself contracting the dreaded virus. He conquered the disease and is back in the business of documenting the success stories of Covid-19 patients.
In the first week of June, Satyanarayana embarked on making a series of documentary films on frontline warriors of Covid-19 – starting with doctors, paramedical staff and other healthcare workers looking after patients at isolation centres and quarantine hospitals, police, sanitation workers of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and ambulance services.
As part of his mission, he chose Gandhi Hospital at Secunderabad, a 100 per cent designated centre for Covid-19. “Thanks to the cooperation from the state medical and health department, I along with five of my team members, ventured into the hospital to document the travails of doctors, the frontline warriors to tackle the disease,” Satyanarayana said.
He and his team members were fully equipped with personal protection equipment (PPE) kits and their cameras and other equipment were completely sanitised.
“We have captured every moment of the doctors and their supporting staff, how they toil all through the day to provide the best medical care to the patients and how they infuse a lot of courage and confidence into the patients to overcome the mental trauma,” he said.
Satyanarayana and his team also documented the stories of several Covid-19 patients and their experiences in the hospital. “My objective was to present a positive side of the Covid-19 story – how people can fight the virus with grit and determination and of course, with self-discipline,” he said.
A week after completing his documentary film on Covid-19 warriors, Satyanarayana himself started developing symptoms of the viral disease. “I was a bit worried initially, but mustered courage. As suspected, I tested positive on June 22 and so did a couple of my team members. Since I was alone at my home in Hyderabad, I went into home quarantine for three weeks, duly following the treatment suggested by the doctors,” he said.
By July 15, Satyanarayana conquered the virus and tested negative. “After taking rest for a few more days, I was back in action with my camera,” he said.
Hailing from Mancherial district of Telangana, Satyanarayana ventured into documentary film making when he was barely 23. “I lost my father at the age of 5 and my mother brought me up by running a tea stall in Mancherial. I was dreaming of becoming an engineer from IIT, but ended up as a documentary film maker,” he said.
He produced the most-acclaimed short films such as Moushini, which depicts the plight of a village that lacked electricity in Sunderbans in West Bengal until 2001 when it became the first village to use solar power; and Dreadful Fate, which exposed the agony of fluoride-affected people in Nalgonda district.
He won a trophy of the best tourism film for producing Welcome Telangana, at IXth ART&TUR International Tourism Film Festival held in Portugal in 2016. He had received the prestigious United States Department of State’s CCIP Fellowship to study motion picture directing at Scottsdale School of Film and Theatre, Arizona.
The short film Satyanarayana had made on Hyderabad during lockdown – capturing the silent streets and stunning visuals of the picturesque locations of the city – received rave reviews in the media.
Satyanarayana has been a delegate and panelist of various international conferences and film festivals held in the USA, Canada, Pakistan, Iran and India. His projects included the culture and traditions of Telangana such as Bonam, Bathukamma, I am Satyabama and Balakka – Dancing with tradition.