Inside an Auteur’s World

Two years after his death,mobile phone clips and dhrupad lessons of Mani Kaul appear in a film,titled Riyaaz

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published:July 2, 2013 5:57 am

Few months before he passed away,experimental filmmaker Mani Kaul had handed over his mobile phone to his acolyte Gurvinder Singh asking him to save the video recordings from the device.

Singh never managed to watch the videos,until recently,when he chanced upon them only to discover a very different side to his mentor. “There are videos of him inside an airplane,in a car,and his children with his Dutch wife in Holland,” says Singh,who had won the National Award for Best Direction in 2012 for his film Anhe Ghore Da Daan that released in select theatres last year.

Singh decided to use the clips in a tribute film he has made to commemorate the filmmaker’s second death anniversary on July 6. The mobile clips will be seen in a short experimental film video titled Riyaaz,alongside visuals that Singh has shot himself: of personal spaces associated with Kaul in Pune,where he used to teach in Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),and several countries in Europe including Holland where Kaul had stayed and taught for eight years. “I have juxtaposed the highly pixellated mobile video clips with the high definition visuals I have shot as a way of paying an ode to him,” says Singh.

Kaul,regarded as one of the greatest practitioners of Indian art-house cinema,is known to have brought alive the deep connection between cinema and classical fine arts such as Indian classical music and Mughal miniature paintings. Kaul,who had won National Awards for his films Duvidha (1974) and Siddheshwari (1989),was also a film-theorist.

Few know that Kaul,who has made an eponymous documentary on Hindustani singer Siddheshwari Devi,was also a proponent of Indian classical music,and Riyaaz emerged from an audio recording of Kaul singing dhrupad that Singh himself had recorded in 2005. “While giving a classical singing lesson at FTII,he had asked me to record a session. It gave me the idea for the film,” says Singh.

The dhrupad rendered by Kaul will be heard throughout the film. Staying true to Kaul’s school of filmmaking,the film is of a unique format. “It is meant to be played on loop,and is better suited to be screened in a gallery space,” says Singh.

The screening of the 60-minute experimental video will follow the release of a book on Kaul called Uncloven Spaces,translated by Singh in 2002. The book is a translation of a conversation between Kaul and Hindi poet and essayist Udayan Vajpeyi. The event will take place at the Films Division,Mumbai. It contains detailed conversations between Kaul and Vajpeyi about his views on cinema. “In the book he talks about his experimentation with styles of narration and his Indian way of approaching the craft. His use of non-linear narratives came from his belief that there is no single perspective in a country like India,” says Singh.

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