Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 19 (May 1990) p. 5.


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Interrogating Internationalism

DjR^mar Shahani

Kumar Shahani (bom 1940) graduated from Bombay University and then completed the Direction course at the Film 6' Television Institute of India at Pune in 1966. In Pune he became deeply attached to Ritwik Ghatak, who was then teachingat thelnstitute. In 1967 he went to France to continue higher studies in cinema and spent the tumultuous years of 1967-68 in Paris. He was apprenticed to Robert Bresson when his film The Gentle Maiden was in preparation.

Back in India, Kumar embarked on his first feature film, Maya Darpan, based on a story of the same name by Nirmal Varma. The film, completed in 1972, won a chain of awards including the Best Hindi Film of 1972. It also received intense critical attention in India and abroad. Several short films followed, accompanied by teaching and writing assignments, including a research project on the study and practice of the Epic form undertaken during his Homi Bhabha Fellowship in 1976-78.

His next feature film, Tarang, was completed in 1984, shown in the Indian Panorama in 1985, and then exhibited widely on the international festival circuit, including Berlin, Tyneside, Edinburgh, Pesaro, and in

several seasons in France and the USA.

Kumar continues to speak and write extensively. Through the 1980s he was invited to give the Damoda-ran Memorial Lecture at thejawaharlal Nehru University, the Rita Ray Memorial Lectures and the Ritwik ChatakMemorialLecturein Calcutta. A selection of his writings were published as 'Dossier on Kumar Shahani' in Framework 30/32 (London), edited by Paul Wllemen who places his workamong those film makers of the world who constitute the historical avantgarde of the 1980s.

Able, at last, to make films in an uninterrupted sequence, he made a short film Var Var Vari followed by a feature, Khayalgatha (19^9) which was part of the Indian Panorama, 1990, and has already shown in film festivals at Pesaro, London, Rotterdam, where it has won the Critics Award, etc. He has just finished another feature film, Kasba, based on a Chekhov story; he is preparing to shoot an adaptation of Anna Karenina and has completed, in collaboration with the painter, Vivan Sundaram, the first stage of work for a major film onAmrita Shergil.

Last night Geeta enjoined me to break the silence that we are all enjoying here.

In recent times I have increasingly come across events that seem to me to point to a crisis of internationalism, and these in the cinema in particular seem to connect up with what was happening immediately after the second world wai, .npoetry first, perhaps, poetry being the most common mode of address in the arts in the sense that everyone is equipped to be a poet. The symptom was of the control of imagination. And recently one has seen this symptom appear in the cinema: of the effort to control and to Standardize the imagination. For instance directors of film festivals such as Hubert Bals, who ran the Rotterdam Festival and supported that cinema which spoke with an individual voice, without pressing any ideological determination on the voice in the programming of the festival, began to mourn that there was hardly such cinema today in the world. Bals used to see five hundred films


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