15th Madurai Film Festival 2013: Retrospective Section

15th Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2013

6-10 Dec, Madurai

Retrospective Section:
Films by Pankaj Butalia

Pankaj Butalia was a national level table tennis player who, later, taught Economics at Delhi University before he took to making films. He has made eleven documentaries and one fiction film. Most of his documentaries have been screened extensively throughout the world and one of them, MOKSHA, won four major international awards in 1993-94. His first feature film, "Karvaan" won a special award at Amiens in 1999 and has been screened in film festivals in Venice, Toronto, Rotterdam, Belgium, Hong Kong, Turkey, New Delhi and Calcutta among other places.

Pankaj Butalia has been a juror in a number of film festivals including Chairman, Jury, Himal Documentary Film Festival, Kathmandu, 1997 and Member, Jury, Oberhausen Short Film Festival, Germany 1990 among many others.

1.      Moksha   -   (Salvation)
Dir: Pankaj Butalia; 80mins; 1993; India




Abandoned by their families to lives of penury, marked by white veils which they wear, Bengali widows find solace and food in the ashrams of Vrindavan where they gather every morning and evening to sing religious songs.
In this profoundly moving documentary on widowhood portrayed both as social institution and personal tradition, moments of astonishing sensuous beauty alternate with rhythms of anguish. In the best of the new ethnographic tradition, Moksha de-centers the voices of authority and allows a plurality of voices to introduce contesting positions.
Haunting in its evocation of grief and anger, the film transcends documentary and assumes its place in the great tradition of lamentation, the expression of the dark night of the human soul.

2.      Tracing the Arc
Dir: Pankaj Butalia; 2003; India



The Great Arc was a phenomenal achievement of applied science in British India between 1802 and 1843. It was an attempt to measure the curvature of the earth's surface under the guise of cartographic and military necessity. The film attempts to recreate the stupendous effort and look at some of its implications.

3.      A Million Steps
Dir: Pankaj Butalia; 2003; India

In the 1860's, the British, keen to know the terrain of Tibet in case the Russians invaded India through Lhasa, trained Indian surveyors to disguise themselves, enter Tibet and carry on surveys incognito. Over the next twenty years, many Indian surveyors, known today as the 'Pundits', entered Tibet disguised as monks or traders and carried out the most authoritative surveys of their times and contributed to the map of Asia. This film is a short documentary attempting to look at the adventures of three of these surveyors.

4.      Karvaan (Shadows in the dark)
Dir: Pankaj Butalia; 100 mins; 1999; India


A feature film drawing upon the partition of India. Starring Naseeruddin
Shah and Kitu Gidwani, the film looks at the immediate impact of partition on a few lives. It then looks at the protagonists about twenty years later to see if there has been any way in which the events of the forties could have impacted their lives.

5.      An Island of Hope
Dir: Pankaj Butalia; 26 mins; 2010; India



A school started by the Chakma refugees in a remote part of Arunachal Pradesh in India looks set to dramatically change their lives.

6.      Kahani Ek Gaon Ki
Dir: Pankaj Butalia; 26 mins; 2012; India

An experiment in a small peri-urban area of Rajasthan, India, where the village gets involved in issues of self-governance and heritage preservation.

7.      The Textures Of Loss
Dir: Pankaj Butalia; 60 mins; 2013; India

Kashmir has been one of the world’s major conflict areas for over two decades. For many ordinary Kashmiris this level of upheaval was completely unexpected. The killing of family members, whether by the Army or by militants has been something that people have not been able to come to terms with. Many families live in a limbo – surviving on a day to day basis – with nothing to look forward to – with no hope except that of bare survival.

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