The Films

16mm: Memories, Movement and a Machine

Director: K.R. Manoj

40 min, 2007


Memories of the 70’s bring with it memories about cinema. Those days, considered to be the high point of ‘new wave’ or ‘art film’ and the film society movement in Keralam, one felt a sort of frisson nouveau in the air, a feeling of being at a turning point, as if something was about to happen.

Film society movement introduced world cinema and the world of cinema to the public on a scale that was unimaginable and impossible earlier. It worked in the fissure between contemporary Malayalam cinema and world cinema, opened up a new world before the cineastes and helped create a new sensibility. The concerns, techniques and imaginary of both were worlds apart for the neophytes.

16mm tries to trace back the trajectory of film society movement in Keralam and its relationship with a machine – 16mm film projector. Now abandoned as an obsolete technology, 16mm projection was the soul and source of the movement at the time and still burrs on in the minds of a generation of cineastes. A journey through the images that try to capture the enigma of the cultural interface produced by a post independent cultural movement…

Before Dark

Director: Ajay T. G.

10 min, 2010

Farmers in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh are being displaced to make way for a coal mine owned by the  Jindal  group. ‘Before Dark’ shows the rough tactics employed by company agents to clear the land as well as attempts by those affected to campaign for their rights. The film won second prize at the 2011 Jeevika Film Festival in New Delhi.


Director: Kumar Shahani

62 min, 1991

Bhavantarana-LightBorn in Raghurajpur in Orissa, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, one of the greatest exponents of the classical dance form of Odissi, dedicated his life to refining the dance form by chiselling out an elegant structural niche for it – in all that is sacred in art. Through a series of performances, poetry and excerpts from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s life, Bhavantarana travels back to a time in India where dance was looked upon as a form of prayer; a period during which, unlike contemporary times, dance was not considered feminine and men were also keen patrons and teachers of dance.

Cowboys in India

Director: Simon Chambers

30 min (shorter version), 2009

cowboysIn a remote and impoverished region of India, a London filmmaker is unaware of the trouble he will cause his two endearing, bumbling local guides as they investigate the Corporate Social Responsibility programme of a respected London based mining company.

The company plans to chop the top off a local tribe’s sacred mountain, promising to bring all the benefits of modernity to the area. But many of the tribal people vow to fight with their bows and arrows against ‘enforced development’, preferring a simple life in nature.

As conflicting allegations of illegality and intrigue accumulate, this odyssey into the hidden underbelly of the Indian economic boom, becomes even more surreal as the three main characters try to unearth the elusive truth, and the filmmaker’s ethical stance towards his characters is put to the test as he tries to get his film ‘in the can’.


Director: Saba Dewan

63 min, 2006

Delhi-Mumbai-DelhiRiya dances in the beer bars of Mumbai to make a living. The documentary follows her from her home in Delhi to Mumbai where hundreds of working class girls come in search of work and a future. Riya’s future is unpredictable and the present is marked with its own difficulties. The police harass her family in Delhi, there is constant pressure from her agent in Mumbai to attract more tips and the work itself is demanding. However, there are other girls to have fun with, there is money to dress well and then there are men… admirers promising the moon. The documentary is an intimate portrait of the everyday life of the girls, their agents and their neighbourhoods.

Figures of Thought

Director: Arun Khopkar

33 min, 1990

Figures-of-ThoughtAs three artists speak about the specifics of their thematic and structural quests, what emerges is an exposition on the nature of art itself. A film about the works of Bhupen Khakhar, Nalini Malani and Vivan Sundaram, Figures of Thought, is a philosophical inquiry into the formative impulses of these artists as a reflection on art practices. Each of the artists reveal, through their own personal predicaments with their subject matter, the inflections of form and content over each other and the emergent aesthetics of it. The film is structured to emphasize both, the characteristic style of each artist as well the thematic and formal conversations between them.

India Poised

Times of India

2 min (undated)

A short internet film put out by the Times of India, featuring Amitabh Bachchan, which gives the flavour of the Indian dream of progress and development, leaving behind the image of a poverty ridden country.

Invoking Justice (work in progress)

Director: Deepa Dhanraj, 2011

A group of rural and small-town Muslim women in South India set up their own Jamaat (community council) in 2003. As traditionally Jamaats can only be founded and run by men, this is an act of extraordinary challenge and courage. Dowry harassment, domestic violence, divorce, maintenance and property disputes shall no longer be judged by men.

Deepa Dhanraj follows the Jamaat’s growth in strength and legitimacy through case studies and hereby takes part in processes of calling for and listening to witness accounts. Questions concerning justice, belief and the practices of customary law are put forward.


Director: Rahul Roy

54 min, 2001

Majma-1Aslam sells medicines for sexual problems on the pavements of Meena Bazar near Jama Masjid in Delhi. Khalifa Barkat presides over an akhara in the adjacent park and puts a group of young men through the moral and physical grind of wrestling. Through the park and the market pass hundreds of men every day. ‘Majma’ explores the instability of working class lives and its impact on male sexuality and gender relations.



My Migrant Soul (Porobashi Mon Amar)

Director: Yasmine Kabir

34 min, 2000

MyMigrantSoul‘My Migrant Soul’ is about Shahjahan Babu, a young migrant worker from Bangladesh who left for Malaysia in search of work. Having sold only piece of property – and virtually mortgaging his life – the young man arrives in the host country to experience only disillusionment, misery and frustration. The film ends with tragic consequences for the protagonist of the film.

The film highlights the plight of the migrant worker in these times, and uses the story of one person to illustrate those of countless others who have suffered at the hands of those who have stood to profit from bartering lives.

Promotional film on a steel plant in Kalinga Nagar, Orissa by Tata

10 min, 2007

An in-house promotional film from the Tata steel company describing the benefits of its proposed steel plant at Kalinga Nagar, Orissa.

Something Like a War

Director: Deepa Dhanraj

52 min, 1991

Something-like-a-War‘Something Like a War’ examines India’s national Family Planning programme from the perspective of women, who are its primary targets. The programme, launched in 1952, was formulated in collaboration with Western population control experts.

The film traces the history of the family planning programme and exposes the cynicism, corruption and brutality, which characterises its implementation. It also questions the ethics of internationally funded contraceptive research, which uses Indian women as guinea pigs.

As the women discuss their status, sexuality, fertility control and health, it is clear that in the absence of inputs such as education, health care, land reform, employment opportunities, social security and improvement in women’s status the program in their words is “reducing the poor not poverty.

The Advocate

Director: Deepa Dhanraj

126 min, 2007

theadvocateThe name of K. G. Kannabiran is synonymous with the founding of the human rights and civil liberties movement in India. The film as part biography and partly history of the times attempts to document the remarkable contribution of Mr Kannabiran in challenging the Indian State to uphold the rule of law in institutions of governance, justice and political praxis. As president of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee from 1978 to 1994, he brought its work international recognition. As a founding member of the Concerned Citizens Committee he acted in the capacity of a mediator in the peace talks between the Andhra Pradesh Government and the Maoist Peoples War Group. He was elected national president of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties in 1994, a position he continued to hold till October 2009.

The Burning of the Stomach

Director: Laura Bear

20 min, 2011

This film is an exploration of the relationship between men and the ships they are building on the banks of the Hooghly river in Kolkata for a Norwegian shipping firm. Through the songs of Shankar Das, a khalasie, and his images from the yard we learn the meanings of death, decay, endurance and the creative act of work. At the heart of his account is the Hooghly River as a manifestation of flow and of the productive and destructive force of global capital.

The City Beautiful (Sunder Nagri)

Director: Rahul Roy

78 min, 2003

City-Beautiful-Still-1‘Sunder Nagri’ (Beautiful City) is a small working class colony on the margins of India’s capital city, Delhi. Most families residing here come from a community of weavers. The last ten years have seen a gradual disintegration of the handloom tradition of this community under the globalisation regime. The families have to cope with change as well as reinvent themselves to eke out a living.

Radha and Bal Krishan are at a critical point in their relationship. Bal Krishan is underemployed and constantly cheated. They are in disagreement about Radha going out to work. However, through all their ups and downs they retain the ability to laugh.

Shakuntla and Hira Lal hardly communicate. They live under one roof with their children but are locked in their own sense of personal tragedies.

The Last Rites

Director:  Yasmine Kabir

17 min, 2008

The-last-Rites‘The Last Rites’ is an allegorical portrayal of the agony of hard labour. Unlike a traditional narrative, the film relies on its images to tell its story.

The silent film depicts the ship breaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh – a final destination for ships that are too old to ply the oceans any longer. Every year, hundreds of ships are sent to these yards in Bangladesh. And every year, thousands of people keep coming in search of jobs in these yards. Risking their lives to save themselves from hunger, they breathe in asbestos dust and toxic waste. What emerges in a greater context is the tragedy of the human condition.

The Other Song

Director: Saba Dewan

120 min, 2009

The-Other-SongIn 1935, Rasoolan Bai the well known singer from Varanasi recorded for the gramophone a thumri that she would never sing again: My breasts are wounded, don’t throw flowers at me – a variation of her more famous song: My heart is wounded, don’t throw flowers at me. The 1935 recording, never to be repeated, faded from public memory and eventually got lost.

More than seventy years later the film travels through Varanasi, Lucknow and Muzzafarpur in Bihar to search for the forgotten song. This journey brings the film face to face with the enigmatic figure of the tawaif, courtesan, bai ji and the contested terrain of her art practice and lifestyle. To find the lost other song the film must understand the past and present of the tawaif and unravel the significant transitions that took place in late 19th and early 20th century around the control, censorship and moral policing of female sexualities and cultural expression.

Volume Zero: The Work of Charles Correa

Director: Arun Khopkar

59 min, 2008

Volume-Zero‘Volume Zero’ is an hour-long video on the work and ideas of Charles Correa, one of world’s most important architects. It deals with his childhood, architectural training, formative years, and the paradigms underlying his large and complex architectural oeuvre spanning over five decades, as well as his pivotal role in addressing issues of urbanization in the Developing World. It uses first person narration by the filmmaker, combined with extended excerpts of interview with Correa, live action, stills, diagrams, animation and archival footage to open up the thought process that generate architectural space and form.

Why I am not BPL

Director: Ajay T. G.

10 min

People below the poverty line in India are entitled to a food subsidy but the system is often subverted so that the not so poor benefit and the poorest of all receive nothing. This short film shows the circumstance which deprives one desperately poor single mother of the help she should receive and badly needs.

Word within the Word (Sabad Nirantar)

Director: Rajula Shah

74 min, 2008

Word-WIthin-WordThe film looks at how the Word, resonates in and resonates of ordinary lives across centuries. Beginning from an everyday cloudy monsoon morning in the city of Bhopal it travels to Malwa, Madhya Pradesh, (the hub of tribal India) also known as the second home of Pt. Kumar Gandharva, one of the greatest musicians of our time. Here within the fast altering fabric of a challenged rural life we encounter common people, age-caste-gender regardless, fighting hard to earn a square meal daily, yet keeping music alive at the bosom of a gnawing fate. Far beyond the scope of any intellectual resolve it is at once a refusal to die, and more significantly a bid to seize eternity from historic annihilation.

‘Word Within the Word’ is a crucial gateway to the India we are fast forgetting, one that is difficult to classify and categorise but simpler to understand if you hear its common folk talk. It is this human landscape within which one can aspire to come to terms with one’s contemporary dilemmas stemming from learned responses, fragmented dreams.

The Warkari Cycle

Director: Lucia King

(48 min – time looped)

Warkari-Cycle‘The Warkari Cycle’ is a music and dance-driven video installation made up of eight short inter-linked episodes. Following the footsteps of Maharashtrian pilgrims or ‘Warkaris’ who undertake this twenty-one day walk each year, they are celebrating the legacy of medieval sants (poet-saints) from their region. Around 1,000,000 pilgrims travel, sing and eat together crossing the Solapur district towards Pandharpur. Rather than being offered an informational commentary, the viewer is immersed into the event in this film. Each episode explores one environment of the pilgrimage as a living choreography centring on one of the significant sites that connects the pilgrims. From the mass dances at the temple of Tukaram to the quiet intimacy of songs sung by bards (or vaghyas) committed from birth to follow this movement, the pilgrimage is traced here in some of its more unexpected tributaries. Just as the event returns year after year to re-live the celebration, the film too is composed as a cycle of fragmentary insights. A poetic and dynamic interpretation.

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