“INDIA ON FILM”
at SERENDIPITY ARTS FESTIVAL 2019
In the 2019 edition of the Serendipity Arts Festival, Harkat Studios presented ‘India on film’. An exhibition investigating the relationship between the art and craft of making on ‘film’ through a series of film screenings, workshops and installations.
This page is a put-together of all that went down. And also, more importantly, an unveil of the films which were made as part of the ek-minute workshop. Read more on the workshop below, enjoy the films and feel free to browse this endless page of ‘film’ love.
It happened about a decade ago, ‘film’ as a medium was discarded by the film industry, almost overnight. Decades worth of knowledge, equipment and processes were put aside and the craft of ‘making’ a film was sealed shut in boxes, forgotten in storage. The digital age brought on the beautiful democratisation of the moving image, but there was one casualty: its medium.
An entire generation of makers slowly realized that along with the tools of the craft, they also lost a large trove of meticulous artistic processes, built with each successive maker. Would a painter be able to make the same work without oils and canvas?.
‘India on film’ investigates the relationship between the art and craft of making on ‘film’ through a series of film screenings, workshops and installations. The intent is to highlight the shift caused by the dismemberment of a medium through changes in narrative techniques by celebrating experiments on film from the Indian subcontinent. The curatorial spreads its net wide and takes you through Films Division documentaries, narratives from art history and contemporary works from a multitude of conscious filmmakers working in the Indian context. India on film celebrates Indian experiments on film, giving centerstage to a medium, still very much alive in the world. It seeks to highlight the deliberation in the ‘making’ of moving images. It seeks to intervene in the historical narratives in film studies and to bring the medium back in focus.
This programme acknowledges the work of the many artists and researchers who have consistently contributed to the discourse – the work of Experimenta India, Amrit Gangar, Films Division of India, the many independent film clubs across India and all the proponents of Cinema of Prayoga who have informed and guided us in presenting ‘India on Film’.
‘India on film’ has been curated by Harkat Studios, an international boutique arts studio based in Mumbai and Berlin.
Lead Curator : Karan Suri Talwar
Curatorial & Production Team : Sheba Alexander, Michaela Talwar, Sapan Taneja, Aditi Kashyap, Tanya Dixit, Namrata Sanghani, Tanvi Chitre
Documentation : Pranav Premani
Film has always been exclusive. This year, Harkat attempted to challenge this with the 16mm Selfie booth. In this installation, we invited participants to experience a part of the film process by bringing the carnival-like environment of a selfie-booth into an artspace. Armed with our 16mm Krasnogorsk and a DIY dark box, we offered visitors the opportunity of being shot on 16mm film, being introduced to the chemical process of hand developing film, and lastly, being able to take home with them their own little piece of “India on Film”.
Muqaddar ka Sikandar
The act of working with celluloid film is not very different from any other craft. This installation, designed by repurposing an old sewing machine, a hand cranked 35mm projector, splicing tools and found footage, positions the participant in the shoes of the maker, the manipulator and the master of this time based media. Apart from making the viewer connect with the medium directly, this install also brings forth a narrative of the manipulative nature of motion pictures, of meaning-making. In a world which is ever-more affected by moving images, this confronts the viewer with its very primal making aspect.
Handmade Film Workshop
The practice of using found objects to create a work of art finds its origins in dadaist art movements of the 20th century and was perfected by Marcel Duchamp with his ready-mades. Avant-garde filmmakers adopted the practice using found film footage. The process of assemblage became a means for filmmakers to critique the spirit of their time.
At the Serendipity Arts Festival, Harkat presented an opportunity for filmmakers to work with found footage and to reimagine and reconstruct it. This was a complete ‘jugaad’ workshop without institutional rules allowing participants anarchy in form and concept; to open their minds to the medium and to the ideas it evokes.
Implementing several experimental techniques such as scratching, bleaching, dyeing, painting and even burning, the participants gradually assembled their films around their own narratives and themes. These films pieced together (literally) by the participants were then screened at the end of the festival in their raw form, on a 16mm projector.
Ek Minute Film Workshop
Presenting a case for 16mm film is akin to presenting a case for cinema itself. Everything from experimental film to cinéma vérité documentaries to pornography was created with this medium. The digitalisation of cinema has led to celluloid film being pushed aside. Despite this, the medium still holds a special place for those interested in cinema. Now mostly outside mainstream institutional guidelines, working with 16mm allows for artistic freedom and experimentation. Engaging with film today represents more than just indulging in nostalgia. It allows the participant a chance to explore a visual language that is specific to the medium.
At the Serendipity Arts Festival, Harkat Studios enabled an opportunity for filmmakers to engage with a now classical technique. We put together a 16mm film workshop that allowed filmmakers a chance to create their own 1 minute silent, short film in Goa, shot on a 16mm camera and with 50 feet of stock. Navigating our way through hundreds of promising responses through an open call, we settled on five. All the films were screened at the end of the festival. For any filmmaker wishing for a chance to grow and challenge themselves, the 16mm film workshop aimed to provide a unique opportunity to realise their ideas on 40 feet of film.
This a very special feat, not only because each shot must be planned to the millisecond but also that one only gets one take of a shot, leaving no scope for error or rather only beautiful errors. The idea was to get makers to re-connect back to the medium and to be hyper-conscious while making.
See the films below to see what came out.
Space interventions with Sofia Ashraf
A fellow artist, rapper, and social activist Sofia Ashraf performed live to a series of 16mm experimental films, made for her music. These performances occurred as space interventions at multiple Serendipity venues across Goa.
Sofia Ashraf is an activist, digital content creator, rapper, and writer with over 10 years of experience in the fields of advertising and communication. Her primary media of choice are music and comedy. Brought up in a extremely orthodox and Muslim household, Sofia’s primary objective is to help girls like her fight years of social conditioning and moral policing to heed their true calling.
SCREENINGS + DIALOGUE
‘India on film’ attempted to put together a selection of experiments by Indian filmmakers in the celluloid medium. Programmed over the duration of the festival, these films were meant to introduce viewers to a cross section of conscious ‘Indian’ films and those, which in our view are ‘Cinema of Prayoga’ films, made with labour and rigour.
16mm / 16mins / 1970
The film opens with a line that stubbornly refuses to be fixed in a circle. The film is a stop-motion animation created out of nearly 1,000 drawings Padamsee made, advancing visually a mathematical theory for ‘programming forms’
Events in a Cloud Chamber
16mm, Super 8mm//22 mins/ 2016
In 1969, Akbar Padamsee made a film called ‘Events in a Cloud Chamber’. He tried to ‘reproduce’ one of his own oil paintings using projected light, working with tinted filters and stencils to recreate the different coloured sections of the painting. After a handful of screenings, the sole print was lost. Ashim Ahluwalia’s film, which is a collaboration with the ageing painter, is a quest to retrieve Padamsee’s film, which exists now only as an indistinct and quickly fading memory.
A Selection of Handmade Films
16mm / Projection : 16mm
A selection of handmade films made as part of two handmade filmmaking workshops with Labor Berlin; at Experimenta in Bangalore and at Harkat in Mumbai.
16mm/20 mins/ 1979
The film explores the product-commodity-exchange value relationship and looks at the continuous, relentless migration of people, labour and things into the city of Bombay.
16 mm/22 mins/ 1999
This film attempts to negotiate with the duality that is associated with the ceremonial veneration of the mother goddess Kali – the presiding deity of Calcutta. It delves into subliminal layers of consciousness, underlying the ritual of Kali worship.
Brihnnlala Ki Khelkali
16 mm/18 mins/ 2002
Shakespearean theatricality meets the subtlety of Kathakali subverted in the dramatic space of street theatre to give birth to performative ‘Caliban-Khelkali’ – a hybrid act of articulating the post-colonial irony of contemporary India.
Nostalgia for the Future
Avijit Mukul Kishore and Rohan Shivkumar
16mm, Digital/54 mins/2017
A film on Indian modernity, the making of a citizen and the architecture of a home. The film explores these spaces and imagines the bodies that were meant to inhabit them through the evocation of the cinematic and aural collective memory of a nation.
This Bit of That India
A layered reflection on youth culture, diversity, progress, education, technology and sexuality. The film juxtaposes documentary moments that celebrate individual freedom with a theatrical performance of Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, as a metaphor for repression and conformity.
I Am Twenty
Twenty years after India’s independence, the filmmaker travels all over the country and interviews the youth that were born on Independence day in 1947.
18 (+2) Blinks of an eye
16 mm/23 mins/2004
The film is a process-based work that sets out to explore the nature of time – real time, mechanical time and filmic time. The film takes the form of a journey from the everyday outside to a dark interiority towards discovery and freedom.
35 mm/120 mins/ 1989
A film about the physical experience of time.
Yet In Him We Trust
16 mm/ 1min/ 1966
Experiment film with an abstract narrative.
Devi stuffed goat & pink cloth
16 mm/ 16 mins/ 1967
An assortment of impressionistic vignettes from the city of Bombay – a place the artist calls “collage in motion”. Strung together by the pervading presence of the beautiful lady of the title, her stuffed goat and a piece of pink cloth, this project tries to comprehend a city partly through its extraordinary human specimen, decrepit objects and familiar images.
The Voice of God
35 mm/ 9 mins 35sec/ 2011
If God came down to earth and tried to earn a living in Bombay, he would probably become a successful voice over artist very soon, lending his voice to thousands of hindi movies, documentaries and public service films in India. A melo-dramatic docu-drama stop-motion and long-time exposure.
I Am Micro
Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel
35 mm, digital/14 mins/2011
The camera finds its way through corridors of deserted film laboratories, dilapidated cinemas and a low-budget film crew set. Digital technology is replacing conventional film techniques and equipment at an amazing rate in India, resulting in a substantial part of the cinematic heritage being lost.
35 mm/13 mins/ 2016
Kaki is a 60 year old widow who lives with her Nepali maid, Malti. The film takes place one afternoon in their house where a flower blossoms in the balcony. Malti meets a boy (a sailor) from her hometown unexpectedly.
An Old Dog’s Diary
Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel
16mm, Super 8, HD/11mins/2015
An Old Dog’s Diary assembles, in puzzle-piece evocations, a portrait of Indian avant-garde painter Francis Newton Souza. The film links fragments of his writings, letters and drawings that are charged with memories of an unsettled life.
35 mm/75 mins/ 2010
Depicts in a very delicate manner the spirit of the art of a great miniature painter Nainsukh. Inspired by the amazing work of the 18th century Indian painter from a small hill state and his biography, the story revolves around the master’s passions and devotions.