Friday, August 22, 2008

Art for Activism- Cinema in India.

Jean Luc Godard the French cineaste abandoned commercial filmmaking, in pure Godardian terms to become an active participant in formulating a direct passage between the essence of art and its reactionary functions- to create a base for political cinema. In the span of few years Godard’s activism dried up. This raises an important question of, the role of art in our lives today. A question which we all should ask ourselves; especially for cinema which is ubiquitous as a commercial form of art, but has the power to touch the masses unlike any other form of art. Hence the possibility of capturing, reflecting and storing through the medium of images is the most important tool for activism unlike any other form of art, with photography coming as its close second.

"A Prophet Has Died In His Homeland," read a headline in the popular Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on the death of the Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn who took an active interest in using his art form to express the state of the people he lived, such an activism had a damaging consequences for him. Closer home Ajay TG was only recently bailed, and even when, art actually talks about issues and structure against the norms of society, it’s the people among us who actually lock away such form of activism behind cellars. An artist expresses through the medium of fiction (lies) to talk about the truth, and on the contrary most people talk about the truth to hide the lies.

Ever since the discovery of various forms of artistic expression; the human nature has able been to express, through the medium, our own social conscience; but the role of the artist and his form takes shape only when he stands and represents the ideas, the pains, the anguish, the fear and every absence of emotions through his work. This absence could be due to several reasons politically or economically. In short, exemplifying the idea of social standing through his medium- it could be used as a subtext or be daring in its overall conviction. But does the role of art actually call for such activism? Since the role of an artist is not typically representing of such socio or political causes, but when the artist like the case of Solzhenitsyn in Russia, Ajay TG in India, Godard in France go about picking up the roots causes to highlight the plight or try building a voice, their strength in the case of cinema- money, and other forms of artistic expression is brought down.

The role of Art in our lives is similar to any other means and modes of our everyday materialism. Perhaps, one does not consciously notice the presence of everyday realities through various medium of art, because of our insane nature of shifting and living in hyper reality- a simulacrum state, where our own being is what we care. A mere reason why any sort of active discourse in art form, such as cinema, meets with sheer displeasure from the crowd. Since a medium like Cinema has the power to transform and touch the chords of masses; it can actually work as mass psychoanalysis and help bring out a change, at the same, highlight and uncover the truth. But the medium is so deeply indebted to the most corrupting equation in the nomenclature of life that it is prostituted most of the time in name of showing something new, fresh and talking about our everyday object of reality and social problems like an empty vessel- hollow.

In a country like India, the role of art is even more important- to highlight the roots causes and social aspects of our region. In using the pen, the camera, and the brush as an active tool to talk about issues which are important for our well being. But how much of this “gaze” “text” “painted colors” talk to all of us. When what we see on television, what we see in cinema or what we even read in most cases is something that represents a false illusion to the realities surrounding us. No wonder, the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard believed that the Gulf War never took place. So what we’ve seen as an activism of the press, what we see as a reality of cinema, and what we read as a truth of the written text is all a façade woven under the bells of art or projected truth.

Even when one agrees with the notions of art representing the ideas of utopian truth, how much of it actually reaches the common person, who are to be guided in this structured, simulated world we live- where democracy and freedom are just two abstract terms of everyday existence- else people like Dr Binayak Sen would still not be sitting and rotting in Indian prison. Could an activism lead by any modes of art save him? Could turning of the camera gaze towards Godhra justify the victims? It does not. Today the stationary function of “Art” has been relegated and subjected to merely “touch” and when it actually moves away from the mould and goes about professing the tools of revolution and activism – it is then never seen or becomes a mere prop in the hands of the snobbish bourgeoisies of our very own lot- the social intelligentsia, whose textbook knowledge, and fabindia actually block an important path in helping the forms of reality and activism reach the masses. When one sees a documentary on the horrors of Godhra, our mind registers to the image, which in turn propels one to think intelligently unlike the Bollywood film which are grossly fed to us, and day- by -day its creating an atmosphere as suffocating as North Korea. In one case when the art is used for modes of expression of truth it is subjected to a sheer censorship to hide the truth- so that we live in a simulated state of happiness, oblivious to the world around us, until and unless something happens to our own mother, father, daughters, sisters and it is then and then only the idea of using “art” to talk about the “truth” would be derived.



Every work of art is borne out of an ideal of frustration, which in turn impels the ideology to talk about the truth around us, hence, use the tool to activate a cause, but what happens when the world is woven in such a state that most, if not, everything appears great. What is the role of art then? Here the art especially the case in India becomes a doll- a mere prop of beauty, mainly used to active the sexual senses and be prostituted through its own idioms of text, image, sound and color. Exception exist in every nomenclature, but it is the idea of society to bring down the exception, who move and use the tools of trade to talk about things, other than the one the society intends it for, and this is seen with a severe backlash in all aspects of our society. The concern of art and its necessary function is to be build on a social foundation of realism. To represent the nuclei of the problem that could be witnessed around the social organism, but whenever the idea is taken up by the artist, the voice actually manifests into a tool which could decipher the truth- but in most cases calamity strikes – in forms of censorship. Why should one put a ban on smoking, violence or the representation of sex in art? When most of us actually commit such felony or indulge in the activity at all forms of our lives. Why have the veils of hypocrisy barbarizing the boundaries of art in the name of truth.

When does Art actually stand for Activism? This happens when the gaze, the text, and the sonata, the brush turns inward, and its is during this passage of looking inside- that one discovers the seeds of pure truth and honesty that gives rise to the artist call for using his tools to talk about things higher than himself and his own naturalistic pleasures. It is then and only then that the aesthetic of art achieves any sort of relevance to the mimesis on life. This is achieved when the artist actually understands his own modes of expression and above all- himself, and it is precisely then can art manifest closer to establishing a foundation for activism. Else most, if not all, forms of activism are built on façade, lies and hypocrisy. For example, the cases of thousand NGOs in India who use the name of art and its causes for activism, to deviate funds into their own pocket. When the question of honesty disappears, all other modes of expression, gestures and voice becomes a deceptive maneuver to hide the truth. Each time a news channel displays a “ Breaking News” in all its goodliness of emoting the mere presence of the gaze to activate a cause, their own motives- usually profit(TRP) takes away any form of social, docu-fcition realism- the reportage that it could have been. All planes and axis of sound and images which reaches us today are corrupted in the name of art and activism.

Art in all form will continue to flourish for those few who know how to struggle to achieve the balance between saying something with conviction, and having the balls to stand for it, and continuing to struggle for the cause, since at no point the root causes picked up by any artist on the foundation of an activism will yield immediate results. It is a constant struggle between truth and deceit, the boundaries are so thin that one can easily slip into the other territory, that is the reason giants of the art form are slowly becoming a rare species, since the “ struggle” to pull together each day of our own existence breaks most people with such dreams down, especially in a country like India, where a guy with hopes of taking up the cause of his society is broken down when he sees that the road is not so sweet as it seemed. Art in all mannerism is everywhere around us, we have tons of painters, singers, filmmakers but true “ artist” who are concerned with “ creation” are slowly disappearing, and artist who use the art form to actually build an activist lingua is harder to find each day.

Read more articles/reviews I write for www.cinemawithoutborders.com

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