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From His Birth

Filmmakers of award-winning film An Old Dog’s Diary on the inner world of Progressive artist FN Souza

Written by Vandana Kalra |
Updated: October 21, 2015 12:55:41 am
One of Souza’s works in the film One of Souza’s works in the film

In between the glimpses of Goa and some of FN Souza’s most iconic works, including his acclaimed Gentlemen series in charcoal, Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia built the late artist’s portrait in their 11-minute film, An Old Dog’s Diary. A jigsaw evocation on screen resonates with the beats of the popular Konkani number Molbailo Dou.

It won the best short film award at the 2015 London Film Festival last week. “We appreciate the recognition of our effort to push cinematic language,” say the duo.

Goel is a Mumbai-based experimental filmmaker and installation artist and Heredia, a filmmaker, curator of film art and founder of Experimenta, the international festival for experimental cinema in India. They were introduced to the artist — his persona and works — when UK-based charity organisation Xandev Foundation commissioned a film on Souza in 2012. That’s when they decided to independently work on a project on Souza.

A founding member of the Progressive Artists Group and often referred to as the Indian Picasso, Souza drew heavily from expressionism, working on human figures. What followed was years of intense archival research, which included scanning letters, writings and essays. Shot on black and white 16 mm and super 8 film, the narrative of An Old Dog’s Diary draws from his inner world, with text from his book Words & Lines that runs as subtitles. In the narrative, there is Souza talking about his birth in Goa in 1924 and elsewhere, the artist describes himself as “a rickety child with a running nose and scared of everyone”.

Winners of 2013 Special Jury National Award for their film I Am Micro, the filmmakers screened An Old Dog’s Diary at the Toronto International Film Festival in September this year. No more screenings are planned yet but the two hope the film leads to introspection. “It is sad to see the powerful legacy of the Progressive artists being challenged in today’s India. If we begin to constrain art and culture, either by default or deliberately, it is a great loss to a society. We must not forget that without art, the soul of a people dies,” say the filmmakers.

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