I am born in Bombay.
Its the 7th day of the waxing moon in the 7th month of 1974.
I start drawing at 3; much before I learn to read or write. Mii mother keeps the supplies running. She's working on her first novel. Apne Saath/ With myself. We both reuse a one side cyclostyled paper. The deal is, she gets to write as long as drawing engages mii. They apparently do!
Strange creatures come forth on paper. Mother says they come into the world after I draw them!
I like the idea.
This girl with a huge face and small body becomes the cover girl of her second novel A Astu ka/ A for Astu.
Life is good with
Little wonder then
is more of an ordeal.
But I like mii friends.
And some teachers.
there are other worlds to inhabit.
There's story, play, song n dance.
There are Russian Raduga books with the unforgettable stories and drawings. There are Brothers Grimm.
I feel at home in the realm of the folk, fairy, fearless n fantastic.
The painted world of the lok and adivasi artists and storytellers makes perfect sense.
Life is blissful till the idea of going away to the Art school pops up.
Whoever's the idea (looks like mine) I find miiself studying Painting at Fine Arts Faculty, Baroda post XII.
Apart from Jyoti Bhatt's classes, little else speaks to mii. Within a month we hear of his voluntary retirement. He offers to be available on campus for students to discuss work on zero pay. It makes no sense to the management.
Days spent in the library studying Vincent Van Gogh stand out.
Mii letters home are full of Vincent's letters to his brother Theo.
Gradually for mii the place loses its inspiration. At 19, I drop out of the only place I dreamed of going at 18!
Back home I discover Poetry with Emily Dickinson. She writes about Love, Beauty, Death, Eternity as if she were a Nobody.
'Missing All prevented me from missing minor things!'
Not yet done reading her!
Other than the 'Missing All', I have no clue what pulls mii to Cinema.
I suspect it is the view from the Bhaja caves in 1995!
Film school however is love at first sight.
It is here I first encounter Time; Fall in love with 'wait-ing'.
As Nirmal ji had predicted- all paths abandoned on the way to here, re-surface; are found all over again, in Cinema.
Am possessed by Lovers' Discourse during first film Half past one. 'That's mii in the corner', playing in mii own film with Uma.
That's our protagonist, graciously played by friend Kumud Mishra. That's the Barthes book in his hands as he passes the girls sitting in the open air cafe set!
Besides the 'wait-ing' for Nothing and No one in particular, I love mii friends; we love the treks inside & outside cinema.
There is a sense, this light on the faces will not return.
Also forever young are the days spent learning magic with some life coaches.
In Cinema we learn to integrate journeys undertaken so far; as also to imagine those not yet undertaken.
Mii dialogue film is based on a Nirmal Verma story.
Poet Naveen Sagar comes to play protagonist. All of us feel, Anupama Srinivasan, mii friend & classmate, playing the wife acts like a Pro. No one believes she's never acted before!
Diploma film is based on mother Jyotsna Milan's story Jagah.
I name it Do Hafte Guzarte Do Hafte Nahin Lagte/ Takes 2 weeks for 2 weeks to pass-after a phrase of poet-friend Ramkumar Tiwari.
Waking to Poetry, reflecting through Art, integrating in Cinema is like taking a course in the thrill of Slow-ness. Much to learn.
The connect between Mystic Poetry and common wo/man begins to intrigue mii no end.
Traveling across Punjab in 2001-02 documenting legends, love ballads, sufi songs, as part of mii friend Gurvinder's IFA supported film documentation is an endearing experience.
Its a blessing to travel through village India, meeting, hearing our people; a discovery to see how poetry & music help them love, live, navigate social fences, and cross borders.
I fall in love with Punjab; learning songs to enter the landscape. The complex weave of many faiths bound together by myriad stories of love & separation enthralls.
Some bonds like the one with Singer Gamdoor Aman's four children grows stronger with time.
In 2003 I travel with artist sister Shampa to Kutchh & Manipur for a film around tradition & taboo in Indian Pottery. The film sees three women- Neelmani, Shampa & Sara Ibrahim and their artist bond across tradition & modernity.
We call the film Beyond the Wheel.
In 2004 the manuscript of mii poems is published from Bharatiya Jnanpith awarded under its Navlekhan Puraskar for new writing.
Its called Parchhain ki khirki se/ Through the window of shadow.
A most compelling poet from Iran possesses mii whole soul in 2006.
It is the formidable poet-filmmaker Forough Farrokhzad.
I bring some of her verses into Hindi for Tanaav-a journal focused on world poetry.
First met Forough in the Abbas Kiarostami film- Wind will carry us;
And later in her own film, Khana-ye siyah/ The House is black.
Mii tryst with mystic songs n everyday takes mii across rural Malwa, tracing the resonance of medieval mystic poets like Kabir, Goraknath, Meera et al across centuries. Sabad Nirantar/ Word within the word (2008) is a film 5 years in the making.
Producer, Jyotsna Milan.
While working on the translation of Vincent Van Gogh's letters into Hindi, a fascinating book has mii in its grip.
I take a detour to translate Ela R. Bhatt's We are poor but so many (pub.OUP); a must read for those keen on understanding the un-organized heart of India. Its published as Larenge bhi Rachenge bhi from Vagdevi Bikaner in 2008.
Through 2007 to 2017 I live & work in close partnership with friend Poet, Artist, Filmmaker Arghya Basu. The collaboration is intense; also makes possible many journeys & works neither would attempt alone.
There is always space enough for other artists-practitioners to join in these collaborative works.
Everyone brings something of value and gets enriched in turn.
Collaborators coming together to create something across apparent divides of age, gender, race, class, ethnicity, language, culture, faith, et al manifest a universe, easier to experience than describe.
Through rigorous cross disciplinary dialogue & exchange between urban practitioners and their counterparts across indigenous communities, we slowly begin to understand, re-cognize and name- Inter-dependent Cinema practice.
Graduating from the film school in 2000, I imagined returning to alma mater after a decade of practice, to share findings.
It so happens that in the beginning of 2010, an opportunity presents itself and I join FTII, Pune as faculty.
It is the TV direction batch.
A performance based on Vincent Van Gogh & Theo's letters is conceived as collaboration between local poets, artists, theatre designers, filmmakers, performers to mark the book release.
We also produce three shorts on Vincent the artist. They include footages from a trip we made to the Van Gogh museum Amsterdam in 2007.
In 2012 at FTII I undertake a short film making workshop. It's based on a story by Italo Calvino. We choose to adapt it in Malayalam
as Anudhinam. Its a challenge for a group of directors to work together; a steep learning curve for everyone engaged.
The workshop however earns mii a termination of contract with a recommendation of transfer to Film wing stating- 'overqualified' for T.V.
I take a break to understand.
The break, allows for a return to mii work-in-progress film with Loknath ji, the potter from Orissa. Am glad for it.The film had started with an infant smiling in his sleep...
Katha Loknath/ reTold by Loknath is appreciated as experimental fiction at SIGNS Kerela and is the opening film at IDSFFK 2012.
I take the call when it comes, to join the department of Film Direction. Teaching, Learning, continues awhile with students.
But the joie de vivre needed for a spirited study & practice of Cinema is waning in the campus.
In 2013, I take a break from teaching to script & direct a short film for an all student crew. It is based on mii story Zuber ka naam Zuber.
The film is called Aisa nahin hua tha Tahera/ Jumbled Cans.
I continue to teach for a while. But perhaps it's time to move on.
I don't yet see the journey I am called to, but I hear the call. What would be a poet's pilgrimage; an artist's walk ?
In mii mind is forming the critical interstice of Cinema as Practice and Cinema as school.
There is a sense that it must be a school without walls, bureaucracy or certificates; rooted in the joy of discovery and rigour of craft.
Shall we call it Nomadsfilmschool?
A call to slow down In the age of digital speed; a bid to align to the moment, to re-calibrate the heart in fellowship?
Mother takes ill in May 2014.The two laburnum trees she planted are showering flowers; neighbours tell us she will be fine.
What we are to witness instead, is blooming trees going to seed with their poet-lover.
Full time into the emergent practice of new media & the our In(ter)dependent cinema, over next four years we undertake intensive travel, research, study, documentation, recording, films workshops and immersive trans-media installations.
The collaboration happens through temporary workshops/ seminars bringing indigenous craftspeople, potters, storytellers, singers; opera performers in dialogue with artists, poets, filmmakers, musicians and cross-disciplinary students.
In the beginning of March 2019 Arghya, mii friend from the un-dis-covered continent, passes on to continue his journey beyond;
I am yet working on the film we shot together with nomads and pilgrims in Deccan...
A drawing as ode to the 'man with a digital camera'.
Rest in Peace, Artist.
The new film At Home walking is screened at Yamagata, Japan 2019.
It is a special premiere.
Mii friend, missing off screen, is gloriously present on screen.
When the woman in the audience says 'now I know why we worship Buddha's feet...' something shifts inside; I feel at home in Japan.
Work started at Seasongray continues at nomadsfilmschool.
Working with students and fellow practitioners in the art, aesthetics & politics of cinematic practice is a necessary corollary for mii filmmaker self.
It is often the sacred grove where I trade mii learning with a 'gleam-in-the-eye' of mii young n not so young learners.
I try to practice what I preach. And mii learners add value by bringing their attention to it. Our only pact is to work and grow together.