Tuesday, November 25, 2014

16th Madurai Film Festival 2014 : Films Division Package

16th Madurai Film Festival 2014

Films Division Package:


Curated by Avijit Mukul Kishore

Curator’s Note:

Films Division, Government of India, is the second largest state-run documentary-producing organisation in the world, the largest ones being its equivalents in the former Soviet Union. It was formed in 1948, with the mandate of recording the visual history of the newly formed nation, using the medium of documentary film. This was seen as a suitable medium for informing and instructing the people of the country with the zeal of creating an ideal nation with ideal citizens. The Films Division archive is a rich repository of the state’s rendition of visual history, with over 8000 films made in 14 languages.

“Of Nationhood And Citizenship” is a package of films that reflect the state’s preoccupations in the first three decades of the history if independent India. The films emphasise national integration, infrastructure creation and reflect on the idea of citizenship, sometimes in a didactic manner and at others in a much more nuanced way.

The language and form of these films makes an interesting study, as do the distinct departures within them with voices that interrogate and subvert the agenda of state propaganda in ways that may be disturbing and delightful at the same time. These departures are almost always expressed through formal innovation, irony and humour.

These films give us a framework for viewing national propaganda in the present day oversaturated scheme of 24-hour news.

PART 1: Reflections on Nationhood and Citizenship

Section A
Directed by SNS Sastry, English and Hindi, B/W, 1967, 20 min
Twenty years after India's independence, the film maker travels across the country and interviews its youth, those born in 1947. What does independence mean to them? What are their dreams? How do they see themselves and the young nation that they symbolise? The answers have a mix of idealism, irony, sarcasm, dismay, hope and optimism. This film is as relevant today as it was over forty years ago.
Directed by S Sukhdev, Music, Colour, 1967, 58 min
India 67” was commissioned to celebrate 20 years of India’s independence. Sukhdev, working within the state-run Films Division, went on to make a film that was far removed from propaganda.

Section B
Directed by SNS Sastry, Hindi and Urdu, B/W, 35mm, 19 min, 1970
SNS Sastry’s portrait of the Hindustani classical master Ustad Amir Khan is at once gentle and audacious in the way he sets up images of his world of concerts, disciples, world travel, his adoring and nagging wife and little child. Of course, there is Khan sahab’s beautiful singing as well, as are his reflections on recognition and remuneration. This film occupies an inspiring and enviable place between documentary and fiction and could as much be a film about the film maker and his place in this world as an artist.

Directed by SNS Sastry, English, B/W, 20 min, 1975
“This Bit of That India” is a layered refection on several things – youth, diversity, progress, education and technology. With an enormous undercurrent of adolescence and sexuality, the film weaves in and out of seemingly disjointed documentary moments of that are a celebration of individual freedom. These are intercut with a college students’ performance of Federico Garcia Lorca’s “The House of Bernarda Alba”, as a metaphor for repression and conformity.
Directed by OP Sharma, Music, B/W, 12 min, 1968
Night comes to give peace and rest to the tired soul. But in modern cities hubbing with industrial activities it is not rest for all. How different sections of the community spend their hard-earned and well-deserved rest is depicted in this film.

Directed by Mani Kaul, Music, Colour, 1980, 20 min
Concerning the arrival of commodities such as vegetables and livestock as well as human labour into a city from rural areas, this film explores the product-commodity-exchange value relationship. Representing in itself a variety of exchange values, money as capital destroys the natural specificity of people and things. In the process, the labourer is reduced to a mere commodity.

PART 2: Constructing the Ideal Citizen

Directed by KL Khandpur, English, 10 min, B/W, 1957
A short-fiction film set in the city of Mumbai, focusing on the importance of punctuality in the life of the individual towards the service of the nation. The message of the film is that the habit of procrastination and vacillation can ruin a man and harm society at large.

Directed by Pramod Pati, Hindi, 10 min, 1964
The film uses the medium of animation to helping children to learn the correct way to sing our National Anthem.

Directed by Pramod Pati, Music, 2 min, B/W, 1968
A Stop-motion animation film on family planning.

Directed by Loksen Lalvani, Hindi and English, 16 min, B/W, 1980
In large cities, there are sky-scrapers, cinema houses, five-star hotels, race courses and petrol pumps but very few public urinals and latrines. It is an uncivilized and unhygienic act to urinate or defecate anywhere and everywhere. A hybrid film that combines comic fictional and stylised documentary elements urging people not to ease themselves in public.

Directed by S. Sukhdev, English, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and Bengali with English subtitles, B/W, 1974, 17 min
“On the 16th of April, I read a news item that there is going to be an all India railway strike. I got a little worried. We decided to take the camera out to the people and ask them a few questions.” Film maker S. Sukhdev proceeds to interview the labour force and the average traveller in the city to make a compelling anti-strike argument for the state. The strike was called by labour leader George Fernandes who does not feature in the film.

PART 3: State Initiatives for the Citizen

Directed by NS Thapa, English, B/W, 1965, 14 min
This film talks of the gigantic and iconic Bhakra Nangal Dam. It talks of the engineering marvel that transformed an arid sandy waste in the Punjab into a huge lake, with two power houses, which irrigated two and a half million hectares of land. It stresses the ideals of nation building through the construction of large infrastructure projects.

Directed by Amar Varma, Hindi, 14 min, B/W, 1965
The popular AIR service of Vividh Bharati is the theme of this film, started in response to the popularity of the popular entertainment services of Radio Ceylon. This service consisted of plays, light classical melodies, film songs, and other items of entertainments for listeners or various age groups.

Directed by SNS Sastry, English, 22 min, B/W, 1976
A film showing India's achievements in various fields during the decade, 1966-1976. The film also underlines the importance of 20-point programme and proclamation of emergency.

Directed by OP Arora, English, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Marathi with English subtitles, B/W, 1969, 14 min
This film is a collection of interviews of women across the country, about their experience of using the loop as a family planning device. This was a controversial method, leading to serious health complications. The film reflected that and was therefore held from release for a significant period.


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