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A Centenary of experimentation through cinema is highlight of FD festival

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NEW DELHI: This weekend, Mumbaiikars will see a feast of experimentation through a Retrospective of Indian Cinema and Video over the last one hundred years.

The Retrospective from 28 to 30 June has been curated by Ashish Avikunthak & Pankaj Rishi Kumar and will be screened at the Films Division in Mumbai.

The prints of the films have been acquired from the Directorate of Film Festivals, the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune and the Satyajt Ray FTI in Kolkata, and the National Film Archives of India in Pune.

The retrospective is a celebration of the spirit of experimentation in Indian cinema; from the moment of its mythic birth in 1913 with D G Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra to the innovative and challenging moving images produced and exhibited today. The films brought together chart the transformation of experimentation, from early celluloid spectacle to contemporary digital adroitness. The curatorial impetus of this retrospective is marked by an emphasis on tracing the chronology of experimentation through the history of Indian cinema. The idea of ‘experimentation’ rather than the experimental or avant-garde drives the films put together in this retrospective.

These films challenge modernity by generating a contemplative dialogue with Indian history, tradition, culture and religion. They are not driven by the desire to just produce an aesthetic artifact, but rather to create a discursive field. 

It was more than 50 years later after Phalke’s experiments that the first experimentation occurred within the bureaucratic confines of the postcolonial Films Division in the late 1960s. These films challenged the formidable account of the sturdy developmentalist state and shattered its edifying edifice. These were the first cinematic critiques of the nation – forthright, trenchant and angry. S. Sukhdev, Pramod Pati, S.N.S Shastry and K.S. Chari among others, radically altered the possibilities of cinematic representation in India.

Soon the films funded by Film Finance Corporation (later NFDC) ushered the much-celebrated rise of the Indian New Wave. Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti (1969) and Kumar Shahani’s Maya Darpan (1972) spearheaded profound experimentation in this period. However, the foundation of this continued experimentation was first established in the venerable FTII under the tutelage of Ritwik Ghatak. The section “Experiment in School” is a small curatorial gesture towards the pioneering works produced in its confines along with the later established SRFTI.

This retrospective is conceptualised as a conversation with cinema, cinematic experience and cinematic thought.

Screening Schedule

Day One -- 28 June, 2013, Friday

28 June, 2013, Friday: 10.00-12.30 pm

Session 1: Experiments with Gods 

A collection of early films made by D.B. Phalke between 1913 and 1935. 

Raja Harishchandra (20 mins, 35mm, 1913)

Lanka Dahan (9 mins, 35mm, 1917)

Shree Krishna Janma (6 mins, 35mm, 1918)

Kaliya Mardan (50 mins, 35mm, 1919)

28 June, 2013, Friday: 1.15- 3.45 pm

Session 2: Experiment in the State 

The earliest robust experimentation in India begins under the imaginative tutelage of Jean Bhownagary while he headed the Films Division in 1965. 

Explorer – Pramod Pati (7 mins, 35mm, 1968)

Claxplosion – Pramod Pati (2 mins, 35mm, 1968)

Trip – Pramod Pati (4 mins, 35mm, 1970)

Koodal – Tyeb Mehta (16 mins, 35mm, 1970)

Abid – Pramod Pati (5 mins, 35mm, 1972)

Child on a Chess Board – Vijay B. Chandra (8 mins, 35mm, 1979)

India ’67 – S. Sukhdev (57 mins, 35mm, 1968)

28 June, 2013, Friday 4.00- 6.45 pm

Session 3: Experiment in the School 

FTII became the centre of experimentation soon after it was headed by Ritwik Ghatak. Since then, along with SRFTI, it has continued to be a space where experimentation in cinema occurs on a regular basis.

Bodh Vriksha – Rajan Khosa (27mins, 35mm, 1987)

In Short – Kuntal Bhogilal (18 mins, 35mm, 1996)

Repentance – Rajeev Raj (22 mins, 35mm, 1997)

Chinese Whisper – Raka Dutta (27 mins, 35mm, 2006)

Airawat – Renu Savant (10mins, 35mm, 2011)

Moon Stars Lovers – Jessica Sadana (10 mins, 35mm, 2012)

28 June, 2013, Friday, 7.00- 9.00 pm

Session 4: Feature Film 1- Kanchan Seetha (87 mins, 35mm, Malayalam, 1977)

by G. Aravindan

Ending the first day with Malayali Filmmaker Aravindan’s masterpiece Kanchan Seetha - an invigorating reworking of the Ramayana, which opens up a new discourse on Indian cinema and its interpretation of religion. This film is located here to be in direct conversation with Phalke’s cinema of religiosity.

Day Two

29 June, 2013, Saturday

29 June, 2013, Saturday, 10.00- 12.30 pm

Session 1: Experiment with the Documentary 

Documentary has been a formidable cinematic form in India. Although most innovation has occurred in world of the political, it has also has seen serious experimentation. 

I am Twenty S.N.S. Sastry (20 mins, 35mm, 1967)

Tales from Planet Kolkata – Ruchir Joshi (38 mins, 16mm, 1993)

Brahma, Vishu, Shiva – R.V. Ramani (19 mins, video, 1999)

Presence – Ekta Mittal & Yashaswini B. R.- Behind the Tin Sheets Project (18 mins, HD, 2012 )

Nayi Kheti – Pallavi Paul (11 mins, HD, 2013)

29 June, 2013, Saturday, 1.15- 3.45 pm

Session 2: Experiments with the Short Film 

This section focuses on films that were made outside the institutional framework of the state or the school and can be understood as independent experimentations, especially focusing on the short form.

Nirjan Godhuli – Santosh Gour (10 mins, 16mm, 1993)

Dust – Ashim Ahulwalia (20 mins, Video, 1993)

Atreyee – Shumona Goel (17 mins, Video, 2003)

Straight 8 – Ayisha Abraham (17 mins, Video, 2005)

Bare – Santana Issar (11 mins, Video, 2006)

Jan Villa – Natasha Mendonca (20 mins, HD, 2010)

29 June, 2013, Saturday, 4.00- 6.00 pm

Session 3: Experiments in the Gallery 

In the last decade, the Art Gallery has become a vibrant space for exhibiting moving images mostly in the form of video art and installations. This section attempts to grasp with this new space of experimentation. It has been co-curated by Mortimer Chatterjee.

Record/Erase – Nalini Malani (10 mins, Video, 1996 )

Flight Rehearsals – Kiran Subbaiah (7: 26 mins, Video, 2007)

Dance Like Your Dad – Hetain Patel (6:15 mins, Video, 2009)

There is a spider living between us – Tejal Shah (7 mins, Video, 2009)

Man Eats Rock – Nikhil Chopra & Munir Kabani (22:11 mins, Video, 2011)

The First Dance – Hetain Patel (7:44 mins, Video, 2012)

Forerunner – Sahej Rahal (12:16 mins, Video, 2013)

File not Found – Jaret Vadera (1 min, Video, 2013)

29 June, 2013, Saturday, 6.30-8.30 pm 

Session 4: Feature Film 2- Satah Se Uthata Aadmi (114 mins, 35mm, Hindi, 1980) by Mani Kaul

Mani Kaul is known mostly for his landmark film Uski Roti. However, the Satah Se Uthata Aadmi is probably his most conceptually rigorous and philosophically penetrating work. Based on the writings on Muktibodh, this film is a deep philosophical articulation on postcolonial modernity.

Day Three

30 June, 2013, Sunday

30 June, 2013, Sunday 10.00- 12.30 pm

Session 1: Experiments with Animation

Co-curated by Nina Sabnani, this section examines experimentation in the world of animation. We shall look at the way in which animation directors have pushed the boundaries and expanded its scope in process, materials, concepts and its functions.

30 June, 2013, Sunday 1.30- 4pm 

Session 2: Cinema of Prayoga 

The invocation of “prayoga” from Sanskrit etymology is Amrit Gangar’s radical move of rejecting the Western art historical terminology of experimental and avant-garde to explain the specific nature of experimentation in Indian cinema. This section has been co-curated by Amrit Gangar.

And now i feel i don’t know anything – Kabir Mohanty (35 mins, 35mm, 2001)

Egotic World – Vipin Vijay (21 mins, 35mm, 2002)

Kramasha – Amit Dutta (22 mins, 35mm, 2006)

Vakratunda Swaha – Ashish Avikunthak (22 mins, HD, 2010)

21 Chitrakoot – Sambhavi Kaul (9 min, HD, 2012)

30 June, 2013, Sunday 4.15- 6.30 pm 

Session 3: Feature Film 2- Kaal Abhirati (120 mins, 35mm Bengali, 1989) by Amitabh Chakraborthy. 

This is a significant film of this era that explores the complexities of human existence within the confines of Indian philosophy and discourse. This film, along with Kamal Swaroop’s Om Dar Badar, is the link between experimentations by Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahni and contemporary articulations by the ‘Cinema of Prayoga’ filmmakers.

30 June, 2013, Sunday, 6.45- 8 pm 

Session 4: Round Table Discussion

The curators along with filmmakers, discussants and respondents will have a Round Table conversation teasing out and putting on the board the major points/ issues /debates that have been brought out in these three days.

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