Sunday, January 4, 2009

Our life is not a movie or maybe- The Indian documentary




"Cinema is an art and as with all other arts, man's interest in cinema is natural and instinctive."
B.D.Garga

India has a rich culture of documentary filmmaking that has continued to thrive till today. Every person, at a certain point in time, has been involved in some form of documentation whether, social or personal, using the camera as a tool to capture their lives or reflect on others. Each, through his own history and tradition, but in the large context of " cinematic documentation", the history of Indian documentary is something that does not exist for most us. What exists is the rise of mediocre works in the name of documentary.

Today, not much has been written or is available online on the legacy and history of this culture. However, in print, film historian like B.D.Garga has written extensively on the medium, he is one of the towering figures of our cinema whose contribution is similar to that of Geroge Sadoul for French Cinema. Here is an excerpt from ‘In "Cinema in India", Vol. II, No. 2’ that would give cinephiles an insight into the rich tradition and history of Indian documentary films.

The essay also helps us understand the various cinema practices that came into existence, and decline of cinematic culture in the country. It's our duty to understand and spread the works of authors and critics who so passionately wrote about the medium and are slowly but steadily disappearing from our landscape. And we should write about them in the same love, respect and spirit as one would write about his father. If not for them and their passion, our knowledge of our own culture and cinematic tradition would not exist.

In the end, this essay is part critique, part history, but as whole for those who care, it's pure treasure.



THE INDIAN DOCUMENTARY
BD GARGA

HOPE REVIVED- PART 1





When the war finally ended after America dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki reducing the two cities to rubble, Wavell, who had succeeded Linlithgow as Viceroy, drily remarked, "Now for the horrors of peace". For India, the horrors of peace included the bloodiest ever communal carnage in which over a million were killed, leading to the partition of the sub-continent. In the two-way trek between India and Pakistan some seven million refugees crossed over the borders of the two Bengals and Assam.


This was the biggest exchange of populations in human history. What we see in films like Gandhi and Jewel in the Crown is a mock-rehearsal of the real human tragedy. The horrors of war have been recorded in great depth and detail by Russian, British and American cameramen, but there isn't even 100 ft. material of this awesome diaspora. Great events in which we are not personally involved are often forgotten. As someone remarked, "With the passage of time we become so insensitive... that we can lie in the disused ovens of Auschwitz and have our photographs taken as souvenirs!". Filmed history has the unique capacity to warn us against the repetition of such horrors.

IFI (Information Films of India) had been disbanded like so much else after the war. National leaders were busy bickering and bargaining amongst themselves and the British, ironically, in a great hurry to quit India. As a reminder of how little time there was, Mountbatten had devised a tear-off calendar indicating the number of days left for the transfer of power. Sadly, there is no newsreel of the winding up of the empire except for a solitary photograph. No less a loss to posterity is Nehru's ‘Tryst with Destiny' speech delivered with a depth of feeling he alone was capable of. We have the words but not the face. This, at a time when any number of sync-sound cameras were around! No film can ever hope to recreate such momentous events in history.


The aftermath of global war, and the dissolution of colonialisn that followed, was to create new tensions and fresh opportunities. A film unit became "an expression of nationhood, a chronicler of achievements". In April 1918, the national government approved a scheme for continuing the work of the IFI - now called the Films Division - to produce films "for public information, education, motivation and for institutional and cultural purposes". Starting with a modest programme, it was to eventually become the largest film unit in the world with an assured (through compulsory exhibition) network of well over 12,000 cinemas throughout the country. India seemed the most exciting and challenging country in the world to a documentary filmmaker. The German filmmaker, Paul Zils, who made India his home for nearly two decades, describes the scene: "This period of '47 to '49 was a most exciting one. It was the period of an all-round awakening, the beginning of an awareness of the role of the documentary film... in the interest of the reborn nation... Four hundred million people were involved ... most of them illiterate, speaking different languages, highly provincial-minded, industrially backward, exploited and poor, burdened by age-old tradition-customs and superstitions. This was a tremendous challenge".

The war-weary documentary was on to an exciting mission. In 1948, when the organisation was revived, Government's first choice fell on Ezra Mir, the former head of IFI. But Mir was abroad "doing some consultative and adaptation work for Gabriel Pascal". In an interview with me, Mir recalled, "I received several cables from Mr. M.A. Hussain, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of I&B [Information and Broadcasting], to return and take charge of the newly-started Films Division, now functioning under the national government... Owing to commitments abroad, I could not return". Mohan Bhavnani, a veteran feature film producer, was then appointed the Chief Producer.

After a lapse of nearly two years (IFl's assets had been taken over by A.J. Patel of Central Cine Corporation who tried to keep alive its activities for a while. But Rule 44A of the Defence of India having lapsed, exhibitors could no longer be compelled to show short films), Bhavnani had to start the department from scratch. M.V. Krishnaswamy, who had worked with the Films Division for several years, said of Bhavnani, "His efforts were chiefly directed towards putting the organisation on a firm basis... Bhavnani's problem was to justify the utility of the organisation and the money spent on it both to the public and the government. This was the reason for the intensely practical and utilitarian approach adopted by Bhavnani in moulding the organisation.

He was also not unduly tormented by thoughts of the Art of Documentary or a Documentary Movement". Bhavnani's chief concern was to make films quickly and cheaply to suit the tastes of a mass audience which comprised the rural and the urban, the literate and the illiterate Bhavnani elucidates, "Realising that these films would have to cater to both urban and rural audiences, a simple technique was evolved which would convey their message in a simple and direct manner... modern techniques rather confused village and illiterate audiences... therefore technical devices were avoided, the tempo slowed down, and sometimes shots were repeated to stress the main idea of the film".


While scores of films dealing with industry, agriculture, health, family planning, literacy, community welfare, rural crafts and development stuck to the formulae evolved by Bhavnani, he was not unaware of the raison d'etre of a documentary. "Most of the films produced through the years and even today, are incorrectly called documentaries", wrote Bhavnani. "A pure documentary... should be able to create a true story around everyday life... and the problems that confront us.. without, in any sense, white-washing the subject... A film such as this, presents certain problems to the producer". Rather than face the problems, the practical Mr. Bhavnani opted to direct his energies to building an organisation, a nucleus of technicians, a name, a habitation (the present premises that Films Division now owns). From all accounts, Bhavnani was a strong and domineering man who stood by his directors and often came to clash with pompous bureaucrats.

More is the pity then that such a man should have paid scant regard to the creative aspects of documentary or to helping build a meaningful documentary movement with social purpose and clear identity. As a result, none of the spirit of a nascent nation coming into her own, or the new conception of citizenship, found its way into the 250 films produced during this period. The idea of national pride was too often treated in images of parades against a skyline with flags flying, and seldom in serious, social studies of India's people and their myriad problems. A favourite theme that could loosely be described as the ‘art film' was the glorification of our past cultural heritage. Thus followed a string of films, Indian Art through the Ages, Cave Temples of India, A Page from History, Forgotten Empire, and many more. Let us examine the source material of some of these films before we come to the end products .

One autumn day, in l949, the gates of the heavily guarded Government House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) in New Delhi were thrown open to the public. Admittedly, for some it was an opportunity to peep into the fabulous mansion that Lutyens had built with Renaissance trappings for the highest representative of the British Crown. For some others, however, the occasion held a different, more exciting promise - the chance to savour something of the beauty and variety of Indian sculpture, painting and metalwork, extending over a period of nearly 5,000 years, specially exhibited there.

A splendid sandstone male torso from Harappa, a slim bejewelled dancing girl from Mohenjodaro, innumberable steatite seals with pictographs, representing the 3,000 B.C. Indus Valley Civilisation - all fashioned with unequalled beauty and skill; the 244 B.C. colossal stone bull which had once crowned one of Emperor Asoka's many edict pillars, displaying unusual technical skill and a profound understanding of form; the serene and sublime figure of the Buddha, with features of an Apollo and clad in a Grecian mantle, obviously belonging to the hybrid Gandhara school; lovely maidens of the 2 A.D. Mathura school, lithe, sinuous, full-blown, the expressive Buddhist sculptures of Amravati - who else but the Amravati masters could show in stone the difference between a dead man and a sleepin one? The Buddhist and Brahminical motifs of Gupta sculpture... and lest it seemed that the artist of the great Hindu Renaissance concerned himself only with gods, there was the superbly-executed figure of a woman writing a love letter, the powerful head of a horse, a graceful huntress sculpted in intricate detail. Neither the eye nor the mind could take in such splendour, so much loveliness, in one visit. One longed to return to it again and again.

When the newly-created Films Division of the Government of India, decided to capsulate the labours of countless artists, cramming over 5,000 years into a 10-minute film called Indian Art through the Ages, its maker showed little imagination or feeling for his material. It was a depressing sight, indeed: images appeared and disappeared with such suddenness that it was hard to distinguish the Mohenjodaro dancing girl from the Mathura maiden! One could neither savour the beauty of these magnificent pieces, nor grasp anything about the context in which they were created. What was true of this film equally applied to others in the same genre, Saga in Stone, Cave Temples of India: Buddhist and Hindu, and Mahabalipuram.


Saga in Stone clumsily catalogued sculptured reliefs in the Sun Temple of Konarak, the temples of Khajuraho, the ruins of Hampi and the relics of the mighty Vijayanagar kingdom in the south of India. The two-part Cave Temples of India took us on a hurricane tour of Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, Bagh, Badami, Sarnath and Sanchi in an attempt to recreate a biography of the Buddha in the first part and the legends of the Hindu pantheon in the second. Mahabalipuram made a feeble attempt at capturing the magnificence of its richly-carved caves and the enormous open-air rock-cut sculptures.

Jean Bhownagary, who was later to join the Films Division as Deputy Chief Producer, observed: "When you see such sculpture, slowly you realise that you need perhaps half a day to look at each of those faces, those bodies and those postures. You need time for they have time on their side... And if you do not have the time, you must replace it with an intensity of vision which recreates the raison d'etre of these works of art. For this, the film, the camera and the cutting table are unparalleled instruments - concentrating all our forces of assimilation... (on) that which the creator of the film wishes to paint with imaginative sound and moving light on a bright rectangle at one end of the darkened room... Thus every shot, every movement of such a film must be conceived and fashioned with the same creative fervour that inspired the original artist whose work is to be truly recreated on the screen".

This may sound like a tall order - and one might even argue whether or not it is possible for the filmmaker to be seized "with the same creative fervour that inspired the original artist". The art film had so far touched but the periphery of India's artistic traditions without ever delving deep into its sources of inspiration. But with Khajuraho, produced under Jean Bhownagary's supervision, the art film in India seemed to come into its own.

Khajuraho explored the magnificent medieval temples built by the Chandela kings between 950 and 1050 A.D. Of the 85 temples built then, some 20 have survived the ravages of Man and Time. But what remains is enough to dazzle the eye and delight the mind with the wealth and variety of its sculptures. Looking first at life in the village of Khajuraho in Central India, the film then shifts its gaze to the sandstone city that perhaps contains more sculpture than all the museums in the world! At an unhurried pace, reverent like a devotee, the camera discovers the temple for us: the long friezes, the inner precincts, the richly ornate ceiling . . .

Towards the concluding passage, the film recreates a day in the life of gods and mortals. The drum-beater, the flute player, the singer and the dancer take over. And the galleries resound with the deep resonance of their music, which is both evocative and sensuous. Like Eisenstein's lions in October, the dancing girls and singers suddenly appear invested with life. And when the musicians have departed leaving behind only the echoes of their songs, the lovers return to each other's embrace and love-play. The erotic sculpture both boldly and discreetly assumes the metaphysical concept of creation as originally intended by the carvers of a millennium ago. Within the space of less than half an hour, a relationship has been created, a mood and milieu evoked. And we are beginning to understand a people remarkably free of inhibitions, and artists who raised one of the most durable monuments to life and creation.

Konarak, yet another striking film, was made by a young cameraman P.S. Dasgupta, who died tragically, struck by lightning, while location shooting for a film. Dasgupta had earlier served a period of apprenticeship with Claude Renoir and shown all the signs of an original talent.
Like Khajuraho, Konarak too abounds in erotic sculpture. But unlike Khajuraho where erotic groups are rarely higher than two feet and often less, Konarak presents life-size couples in amorous poses. But as the monument rises, the sculpture too becomes less frenzied and more serene, to end with the celestial musicians and dancers so gracefully and exquisitely shaped. Dasgupta's film was refreshingly free from all technical bravura. Cut to the bare bones, it achieved its eloquence through a simplicity of form and technique. The filmmaker avoided the trap of pretty frames and yet managed to impart it a poetic air.

Arun Chowdhary, a sensitive filmmaker, working with the Films Division, produced a strangely evocative film, The ]ain Temples. Chowdhary kept his camera incessantly on the move, closing in on a detail now, traversing rows upon rows of delicately carved figures and then suddenly whirling about the pendant of the temple's dome.

From sculpture to painting was a natural transition for the filmmaker. When the puritanical Aurangazeb banished painters from his court, many of them migrated to small native states up in the foothills of the Himalayas. Moghul influence mingled with Rajput tradition and Pahari art, creating an unique and distinctive style. More fully than at any time since Ajanta, painting now concerned itself with women as the prime source of romantic enchantment. Thus the profusion of paintings depicting the Radha-Krishna legend. The love life of Krishna as sung in their folk songs, greatly fascinated the Pahari painters and found expression in their sensitive and tender work. The legend and the paintings both eloquently suggested their filmic use. Jean Bhownagary was quick to sense it and produced Radha and Krishna in collaboration with Shanti Verma.

Radha and Krishna, in austere narrative style, recounts the familiar legend of Krishna and beloved milkmaid Radha, as seen by the l7th and 18th century Pahari painters, who lived and worked in the small hill states, particularly the Kangra valley. The poetry of the miniatures and their delicate colouring is brought to the screen, with taste and feeling to recount the tale of Krishna from his birth, to his exploits in the magical countryside of Brindavan and his love for Radha, most beautiful of all the Gopis, to his overthrow of the tyrannous King of Mathura. The film ends with the famous Ras Leela dance in the forest of Brindavan.

The music, provided by three of India's most vigorously creative artists - Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar and Vishnudas Shirali - was worked out with intense feeling and fervour. Radha and Krishna established that only a film charged with emotional interest and poetic feeling can result in authentic revelations.

Out of the scores of humdrum films made on India's sculpture, painting, music and dance, the films I have discussed above form isolated (almost accidental, it would appear) peaks of achievement. Even the celebrated painter M.F. Hussain's Through the Eyes of a Painter, a rambling collage of Rajasthani scenes, was a flash in the pan.

Another favourite theme of the Films Division has been the exploration of people of various ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the temptation to do so has more often resulted in the exotic rather than the sociological. It is the colourfulness of the costumes, the strange customs, the quaint rituals, that have received more attention than any sincere urge to understand and establish communication with the people. Films like Adivasis on the tribals of Madhya Pradesh or Our Original Inhahitants - an omnibus film on the entire tribal population of India - or Report from the Hinterland, made no attempt to know the tribal people, their problems, their way of life. More often than not, the tribals appeared like puppets, carrying out the bidding of some government official hidden behind the camera!

In sharp contrast was Paul Zils' The Vanishing Tribe, on the Todas who live in the Nilgiris. Within the space of less than 20 minutes we get to know these proud and handsome men with flowing hair and beards and the Putkuli-clad women with curls and ringlets. Zils introduces us to the oldest woman in the settlement, Bjak, and also Pliyanersh, her grandson, and it is through them that we discover the ritual and routine of their lives. They are the traditional lords of the Nilgiris. Whence did they come from? No one knows, for sure. Maybe they are descendants of the Aryans who crossed the Himalayas into India? Or of the Macedonians? Or Phoenicians? It is a film full of keen observation and sympathetic detail. It is a film charged with curiosity, made with love.

Zils was to guide and nurture the independent documentary movement in India for nearly two decades. He also groomed many a talent - among them, Fali Billimoria and S. Sukhdev...


A MOVEMENT IN MAKING- PART 2






In the fifties Indian documentary seemed alive, well and bouncing. Among others, the man most responsible for it was Paul Zils. Zils had arrived in India almost by accident. Starting his film career in 1933 as an apprentice at UFA studios, Zils was said to be a favourite of Goebbels because of his handsome blond looks and 'full Aryan credentials'. But obsessed with Asia since reading Hermann Hesse's Siddharth, Zils defected to the United States. It was there that he got Paramount interested in a film project to be shot in Bali, Indonesia. He was hard at work on the film when, on May 10, 1940 he was arrested along with other German nationals and imprisoned in a Sumatra jungle stockade.

A year later, when the Japanese were moving rapidly on Indonesia, the German prisoners were shipped to India and interned in a large prison camp in Bihar. Zils found that among the inmates there were a number of musicians, a conductor, composers and writers. With his usual drive and resourcefulness he began to organise musical shows in the camp. The British were so impressed with Zils' skill that they offered to release him if he would go to work for Information Films of India.

To quote Zils, "I distinctly remember that day in late October, 1945 when I arrived in Bombay first,with a contract signed by the then British Indian Government to head the external unit of their Information Films of India... I assembled one of the best Indian documentary units ever. There was Aubrey Menon, as the scriptwriter and Jean Bhavnagary as research worker and Brian Eastdale, the music composer. And there were some more keen and enthusiastic helpers who contributed considerably to that wonderful spirit which turns a unit into a team".

When IFI closed down, Zils found himself at a loose end. Many of his compatriots went back to Germany, but Zils stayed on, a decision which proved wise and beneficial both to him and the Indian documentary movement.

The revival of the Films Division on the one hand had made regular film production and exhibition an accepted fact. On the other, it had choked all outlets for the independents. Hardly a healthy situation when a movement was just beginning to emerge. Paul Zils immediately perceived that what the independent filmmakers needed was a forum to stimulate interest in Indian documentaries, "to provide a rallying centre for the documentary film movement". He sponsored the publication of a quarterly magazine, Indian Documentary, the like of which had not existed before or since.

The inaugural issue came out in early 1949. It had a very impressive editorial board comprising Mulk Raj Anand, B.K. Karanjia, Vikram Sarabhai, Frene Talyarkhan with Jagmohan as Executive Editor. To give an idea of its contents - there were articles on scriptwriting, discussions on Indian documentary children's films, Unesco's report on the educational films in India, reviews of recent documentaries, profiles of eminent documentary filmmakers, book reviews, technical notes - all suitably illustrated. This was a valiant effort although doomed from the start for lack of resources.

It shut shop after four issues. But Zils was not a man to give up. The magazine reappeared after five years. Its revival was greeted by the Indian press enthusiastically. The Current wrote, "After five years the Indian Documentary makes its appearance as a quarterly with a far wider scope and with very attractive presentation". The Times of India commented, "With growing interest in documentaries and educational and scientific films, the revival of this journal after a lapse of five years is opportune....by providing a forum for intelligent discussion of documentaries and for comparing the work in this country with what is being done elsewhere, this magazine should help in the raising of documentary production standards".

It is a tribute to the tenacity of the man that without any help from anywhere he published the magazine for five long years, till it folded up forever in 1959. It also speaks of the bankruptcy of our official and non-official organisations that we should have let such an excellent forum close down.

At the time there was much rethinking on the role of cinema in general, and documentary in particular, in a growing, evolving society and the forces unleashed by technology and industrialisation and tides of social change. This process was greatly helped with our contact with European filmmakers, first through their films at the 1952 International Film Festival and later in person. Jean Renoir came as early as 1949 to scout locations for his film The River based on a novel by Rummer Godden.

It was during the filming of The River that Satyajit Ray met Renoir and observed his shooting which was to provide him with the necessary technical knowhow and encouragement to make his masterpiece Pather Panchali. Roberto Rossellini who had startled the world with his neo-realistic masterpieces Open City, Paisa and Europa '51 came to India in 1956. He was well informed on Indian history and civilisation Rosellini was also deeply moved by Vinoba Bhave's Bhoodan movement. With his own cameraman and a unit provided by the Films Division, he travelled around India for several months taking in the Indian scene. The result was India ' 57, an episodic film which showed the indelible impression India had left on its maker. At first sight, the film appears to be no more than a series of images of the Indian countryside and people but a closer look unravels its depth and complexity. Truffaut likened the film to free verse and called it "a meditation on life, on nature, on animals...."

About this time, two other well known documentary filmmakers, the Russian Roman Karmen and the Swedish Arne Sucksdorff, were drawn to India to witness not only an ancient civilisation but also the exciting drama of a young nation on the move. Karmen had come to India with a formidable reputation, having vividly covered the Spanish Civil War, Mao's long march in China, the war in Leningrad and the Nazi trials at Nuremburg. While Karmen preferred to film the emergence of industrial India in his feature length film Dawn over India, Arne Sucksdorff went to Bastar in Madhya Pradesh to film the life of the Murias, a people unchanged for thousands of years. Like Flaherty, Sucksdorff spent 18 months with the tribe to get as near to an authentic record of their lives as possible. He is reported to have exposed 120,000 ft. of film for his feature which was eventually named The Flute and the Bow. Two other extraordinary films that he made in India were Indian Village and The Wind and the River, stunningly beautiful, keenly observed, and warmly human.

These filmmakers apart, what really contributed to the growth of the documentary movement was ample sponsorship to independent filmmakers by agencies like the United States Information Service and the Technical Cooperation Mission familiarly known as TCM, the Shell Film Unit and industrial houses like Tatas, Scindias, ICI, Hindustan Lever, ITC, Dunlop, etc. Of the two American agencies, the USIS produced a number of elaborate documentaries on river valley projects, malaria control, road building and Japanese method of rice cultivation. These films had a certain 'studio' quality and finish not often found in documentaries. Obviously they had the advantage of sizeable budgets and enough time for production. The TCM sponsored an extensive programme of functional films on subjects relating to agriculture, animal husbandry, irrigation, cattle improvement, farming implements, fertilisers, health and hygiene, literacy, etc. TCM also involved itself in community development programmes (at the time the most radical programme in India) and made motivational films like the one on Etawah in which villagers build roads with their own resources and labour. While the programme had a certain educational value, it also provided "important bread and butter contracts for the established documentary film producers".

Perhaps, more ambitious than both were the films of the Shell Film Unit, which commenced production in the mid fifties. Stuart Legg, head of the Shell Film Unit in London, came over to India to prepare a blueprint for a film programme which included films on the major industries of India, village crafts, folk dances and a series called Life in India. To supervise the programme Stuart Legg secured the services of James A. Beveridge of the National Film Board of Canada. Beveridge was an ideal choice having worked with John Grierson, Legg and Ross Maclean. Beveridge realised the importance of documentary and specialised films in the process of India's dynamic development. "Nowhere in the world could there be a greater testing ground, and a more challenging opportunity for film to prove its worth, than in modern India", he wrote. Paul Zils and Hari S. Dasgupta were two of the producers who were assigned to make films for Shell. Both had impeccable credentials.

In technique and format the Shell films were distinctly different from those of Films Division. Beveridge attached much importance to thorough research and well written scripts - the foundation on which a good documentary can be created. This is well borne out from the films Shell sponsored.

In the Major Industries of India series Paul Zils shot a 40-minute documentary at Jamshedpur showing how people in the steel town live and work. It had an interesting structure built around seven workers in various sections of the steel plant. What emerges at the end is not only an impressive portrait of the steel plant but also considerable insight into the lives of those who man it. Similarly in the Life in India series, Hari S. Dasgupta adopts the dramatised documentary form for his film A Village of West Bengal, (This film could be said to be a forerunner of Fali Billimoria's The House that Ananda Built). Dasgupta's film depicts life in a Bengali village on the banks of Mayurakshi river during various stages of Durga Puja celebrations. A newly-wed girl returns to her parental home just as the goddess is brought during the festival. A parallel is subtly established between the human and the divine. As the village artisans and craftsmen feverishly prepare for the great festival, the social and religious significance of the event is driven home. What further sets the film apart is the fact that we get to know an entire village through an individual and an event.


Zils made several films for Shell on subjects as varied as A Village in Travancore, The Martial Dances of Malabar, and the Oraons of Bihar. Of these I particularly remember the first two. A Village in Travancore showed the life and problems of a family, not without a certain lyricism. It won an award at the Cork Film Week and in the words of Basil Wright, the Chairman of the Jury, "The film deserved its award because when we have seen it we are not only better informed about a group of people in a certain far away place, but have received that aesthetic satisfaction that comes from a film sensitively directed...". Martial Dances was a shorter film but equal in impact. It starts with references to martial and maritime traditions of Malabar. We see the ritual dance of Vela kali and Kalari and boys and girls being trained in the use of swords and daggers.

At the end is tharayaitam, the ceremonial dance in honour of their legendary hero.
Happily Beveridge allowed his filmmakers total creative control. Said Zils, "Shell's programme is an immense opportunity for the documentarian of my type always keen on covering fresh aspects of the Indian panorama....they give full freedom in handling the subjects in a creative manner...since they have no axe to grind, much objectivity in the treatment is allowed". Within four or five years Shell/Beveridge created a sizeable body of films - films that were wide in sweep, human in approach and innovative in technique. Even today the Life in India series retains much of its interest and relevance.


Tomorrow, Part 3, 4


B.D.Garga went through his peace in the early 50s; six years with films units in Europe and one year in Mosfilm Studios, Moscow. He emerged not only as a filmmaker but also a filmologist, critic and film historian of repute. He also helped found the National Film Archives of India. He was a consultant to UNESCO on visual arts and was on the committee of experts to prepare anthologies on the history of cinema. Garga's writings have been published in prestigious journals, including Cahiers du Cinema and Sight & Sound. And not many may be aware that B.D. Garga was the first to make a documentary film on Satyajit Ray, much before Ray shot to international fame



B.D. Garga
In "Cinema in India", Vol. II, No. 2, April-June, 1988, pp. 32-36..
(Some excerpt also published online on asia media)

pic1- B.D.Garga
pic 2- A painting by Manjit Bawa who passed away recently.
pic 3- Taken by the noted photographer T.S Satyan, one of the finest photojournalist in India.

10 comments:

natasha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natasha said...

thx for sharing this article on documentary by Garga. Informative.

Kshitiz Anand said...

This is truly informative indeed!
Being a documentary photographer, I think that it is extremely important to know this small part of history in Indian cinema.

More to comment after the other parts!

nitesh said...

Thanks for the comment Natasha and Kshitiz. I think this particular essay is vital in many ways. For eg: I never knew that India had an informative magazine on cinema in the 50s (though on documentary) but we did, as Garga points out in the essay. Then the idea that a foreigner set about spearheading a documentary movement is amazing, beside it is remarkable to read that people cared not only about techniques and stories in documentaries but also aesthetics.

Kshitiz Anand said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Anonymous said...

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sumanspati said...

hi Nitesh,
i would be very thankful if you could send me either the e-mail address or phone no of Mr Garg.
i run a Doumenatary Circle in Hyderabad.
--sumanaspati

Rakshita Sharma said...

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