For sculptor, painter, poet, and filmmaker Tarsem Singh, who believes that each artform has a new story to narrate, every medium has its own vocabulary. With a masters degree in sculpture from Santiniketan, and bachelors from the Government College of Art, Singh discovered the power of a camera and the medium of filmmaking to give his sculptures a wider reach.
The Chandigarh-based artist explored set design, painting, and short films to initiate a dialogue with the audience. Working closely with new artists, actors, and musicians, Singh is now on a journey, travelling across Punjab to document the work of many unheard and unknown poets and songwriters of the state in short poetry films, giving the writer a new identity and face. The project has another creative dimension, as Singh is doing sketches which are connected to the poetry of new writers, including some of his own work. His endeavour, Shaking Antenna Films, has, in a span of a year, created seven poetry films, the larger idea being giving “authority” to the writers.
Singh has created a new format for these short films, moving away from simple narrations by poets, and has instead developed a story revolving around the poetry, apart from getting actors to play the characters in special locations.
“A script or screenplay is written with original background music and the film is shot using many elements of filmmaking, post which I edit it. This intends to be a platform for writers to get people closer to the poetry of their times and in their language,” explains Singh, who is in his 30s. He has filmed poets like Ghazala Khan, Nand Kishore, Safarjeet, Rashmi Sharma, Binder Pal Fateh, and Amandeep Singh Raahi, among others.
The poetry sketches, says Singh, is an extension of the poetry films project, inspired by sketches and photographs of legendary poets and revolutionaries, which includes some lines of their poetry and philosophy. These were earlier very popular in Punjab and were seen on the walls of many homes. As an artist, Singh was very conscious of the fact that the poetry sketches should not appear like or resemble posters.
“The idea was to take poetry and art to common people, outside galleries and auditoriums, and in the process create a movement for realistic art, which our schools and colleges have failed to do, as young students are not exposed to art, its history, varied forms, and many a time, shy away from it,” says Singh, who adds that while some people connect to the sketches, some relate to the poetry, as he showcases these poetry sketches at public spaces and talks about the process, medium, and the philosophy of the poets among others. “These are for the people, depicting the many aspects of our history, literature, culture, traditions, and most of all giving our writers an identity,” concludes Singh.