Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Enduring Images:- Buddhadeb Dasgupta.

Time has always wiped away insipid, imitative images made for non-creative purposes. Such knowledge gives strength to those of us who decide to delve into the secret second world that exists deep in our dreams and to send signals to the world through images which very often are personal and pure. BUDDHADEB DASGUPTA writes.

For a long time now, our collective consciousness has been increasingly surrounded by surrogate images of life as the politician or the ad-man would have us see it. They are intrinsically dull. They do not excite us, inspire us or communicate meaningful experiences of life to us. They are created and seen more from the point of view of consumerism than as an expression of ideas from one who has the vision of a poet.

This trend is dangerous. Already, meaningful images are being shunted to the sidelines while transparent or imitative ones have been force-paced onto a fast-track. These are more acceptable now as they are instantly communicative and demand no extra attention from those who see them. But they lack the strength to return to the viewer’s reverie, and soon get lost in oblivion.

However, images which might seem to some to be too complex and non-communicative, may lead others to mysterious journeys into the world of true creativity. I am ready to return to the images in the early paintings of Bikash Bhattacharya or Satyajit Ray’s film from the fifties to the mid-seventies for countless times. Yet the images they created later on are not meaningful to me. They have no redolence. They fail to contribute anything to that secret second world from where a person returns to write poems, compose music or create enduring images.

In a creative process where the forms of expression are through images, one must journey to secret second worlds that one can still find in nature, in music, in great poetry or even in mysterious silences and through ones’ own experiences with time and dream. A painter or a filmmaker tries to relate those images directly or indirectly with their themes of expression and shape them to that form wherein they have lost their origins and, with definite identities, have become the images of the creator.

Myths, sometimes unknowingly, contribute a great deal to giving such images their separate identities. In the indelible death scene of Indir Thakrun in Pather Panchali, the director simply shows us a vessel rolling down into a pond. The unique meaning of this scene can immediately be identified with the Hindu tradition of breaking an earthen pot when someone dies... and symbolically releasing the long-pent soul. Ray’s Devi is another example, particularly the last scene. In some of Ritwik Ghatak’s films mythological names have deliberately been given to the female characters. Ray and Ghatak made a significant contribution to the liberation of Indian celluloid images from a state of mediocrity and lack of expressiveness.

In many of the films of Bergman, there are scenes directly related to Biblical myths. The myths of Islam have frequently been fielded in the films of Mohsen Makhmal Baf of Iran. There are similar examples in films from other Islamic countries. Even in the works of some of our important painters, myths mysteriously dominate the images. From Abanindranath Tagore to Ganesh Pyne, religious myths can repeatedly be traced. In recent years, folk and tribal images have strangely dominated the imagery of painters like K. G. Subrayanan, Madhbi Parekh and Jayashree Chakrabarty. Folk and tribal myths have also inspired some film directors.

In Ghatak’s Ajantrik, we have seen the images of Oraon tribes. In Kanchan Sita by Aravindan, tribal motifs have been used to tell a story from the Ramayana. A viewer without any knowledge of these myths as reflected in different forms of the images may not identify them and in the process fail to respond to them. If he is a culturally ill-prepared professional critic, he often negates or condemns those images and attempts to destroy them forever for his readers.

The concept of universality of images comes from a confused notion of distance. One can reach a far-away place within a short time by flying, but he cannot change the distance. Truffaut failed to relate with the celluloid images of Pather Panchali and left the theatre half-way through. He did it because he had never experienced such images. Years later, Truffaut sat through the film and made some encouraging comments on it. But did he really identify those images, or did he just say something for the sake of saying something? Images, when not personal, can always be identified with religion, history, country, region and finally with language. So a set of images offered by a particular religion or a region always bears a separate identity as they are rooted to a particular culture and ethos. A painter or a filmmaker who is part of that culture uses them knowing full-well and almost intuitively their significance. He or she has grown up with those images and can identify them consciously or subconsciously.

A filmmaker can also go beyond such images and create ones which are purely personal and can only be related to his own time and his own dream. The paintings of Rabindranath Tagore are an example of how images can be related to a personal time, consciousness and subconsciousness and finally to a dream. They must have come to us straight from that secret second world where he actually lived. But such images also reflect the crises of the contemporary human situation as comprehended by a creative person. In the self-portraits of many great painters, the pain and anguish of their faces can be related to particular situations of their times. The personal images certainly reflect the inner core of the creator and contain the essence of the human situation in which he lives and creates. The images in the films of Andrei Tarkovsky are equally personal but can always be identified with the first-hand history of images created by people of a different culture, religion and country.

Images narrating a tale are more readily acceptable than those which tend to become obscure because they refuse to narrate. Non-narrative images run the risk of getting rejected immediately as they are non-traditional and so have not been previously experienced by their viewers. But narrative images can rise above themselves and be stunningly and successfully different from the traditional, expected, run-of-the-mill structure that the narrative may seek to impose upon them! The films of Dziga Vertov or the images in Bikash Bhattacharya’s early paintings are examples of this.

The state and the media have generally promoted images which are transparent, derivative and often lifted from second or third-hand experience. They do this deliberately because of the mass, easy acceptability of such images and to divert the attention of the populace from their true crises. These things have short-term commercial value. But Time has always wiped away insipid, imitative images made for non-creative purposes. Such knowledge gives strength to those of us who decide to delve into the secret second world that exists deep in our dreams and to send signals to the world through images which very often are personal and pure.
(Courtesy, The Statesman)


Director's Profile

Merchant of Dreams

One of the the primary goals of the blog has been to share some important essays, article written by prominent filmmakers of our country, earlier we had Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s words on John Abrhaman, and now Buddadeb Dasgupta on the enduring power of images. Hopefully, soon enough we will having more translated works and articles posted.

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