Armed with a camera on her shoulders, a tripod to stabilise the footage and a vision to get the perfect shots, Jayashree Puri sets out wherever an important event has to be covered. This is nothing new for her. In fact, this has been her job for 32 years now!
You have most definitely watched some of Jayashree’s videos since she is the camerawoman for Doordarshan. The 55-year-old has a diploma in Electronics & Communication Engineering, but one advertisement ended up entirely changing her life!
“About 30 years ago, an opportunity to enter the DD studio was no less than entering a Hollywood film set,” Jayshree told The Better India.
“I saw an advertisement on TV in 1984 about a training session for trainee cameramen in DD. Although the advertisement was specifically for cameramen I thought, why not go for it?”
Jayashree’s father was a former army man, and she and her five siblings had a very disciplined and bold upbringing. This is perhaps why she decided to go for the DD interview even when she knew had an extremely slim chance of getting through.
On the day of the interview, Jayashree and her friends from college went to the studios, eager to get a glimpse of the then DD personalities. When it was Jayashree’s turn for the interview, the interviewers asked her if she knew anything about cameras.
“No, nothing” was her reply, “But I am eager to learn, and promise to give you my all in the process.”
And although the position was for a trainee cameraman, the successful interview landed Jayashree the job!
On one of her first assignments, Jayashree was assigned two assistants instead of one, since her slim physique made her boss believe that she would be unable to carry the heavy camera equipment. Jayashree was on her way to interview the founder of Sulabh International when she met his PRO in the lift. The PRO asked Jayashree who the cameraman was.
“Me,” said Jayashree confidently.
“Shame on you,” replied the PRO, smashing her confidence.
Jayashree had never seen such a reaction from anyone. It was usually disbelief or respect. But shame? Never.
“Your camera should be like your baby, madam,” continued the PRO. “Or like a musical instrument to a musician. You should always carry it yourself. The more you are in contact with your camera, the more you can make it your own.”
Since that day, 32 years ago, Jayashree and her camera have been virtually inseparable. Even when she has to shoot for eight hours straight, Jayashree does it with complete zeal.
Her experience with DD also has been exceptional.
“Initially DD was the only channel, and the channels came in much later. In all these 32 years, I have never felt that DD was biased. Every person gets an equal opportunity, irrespective of their gender. It is an exceptional place for women to work in.”
However, she emphasises that if someone wants to work on this platform, you should also be prepared to give more than 100%.
Jayashree says that her determination to be a model for herself has helped her put in 110% at everything she does, at every shoot she goes to. She wants to make sure that the kind of shots she gets are perfect and allow no space for her seniors to complain.
The Tsunami havoc in Nagapattinam in 2004, several events of the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well as the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are amongst the important events that Jayashree has covered. She has also covered several Republic Day Parades.
“Being an army kid, I take immense pride in covering the parades,” she told TBI.
The coverage of such significant and long-running events would demand that Jayashree be away from home for days together. For a mother of two, long shoots like these are not always the most convenient assignments. However, the story was completely different for Jayashree.
Her husband, DK Puri, provided her with ample support and took care of their young daughters while she was away.
“I got married almost immediately after I started my job at DD. My husband has been a strong support throughout my career. So much so, that he would get upset if I could not cover an important event due to an illness or other assignments.
He always wanted me to get the best of opportunities, and he made sure I did not have to worry about home when I was working,” Jayashree told us.
To the women who aspire to be camerapersons, she says, “You need to be physically strong. At times we need to shoot in harsh cold, or severe heat. We have to wait patiently for hours together for that one small byte. We cannot be bothered with beauty.”
She recalls one incident that gave her a new perspective towards beauty. She was patiently waiting for a byte at an outdoor shoot, and several families were attending the event in question. One woman, sitting somewhere in the middle row, approached Jayashree and told her that she looked beautiful. Jayashree did not know how to reply to that since she had never bothered about external beauty as much. Sensing this, the woman replied,
“Your beauty is in the sweat you get while doing your job.”