Social Scientist. v 18, no. 202 (March 1990) p. 33.

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Film as a Contemporary Art^

From the mute to the articulate, that is how I see my presence amongst you. At its origin my metier is one of seizing shadows and reflections. Yours is that of grasping the very substance of that flux that the world is made of: the world that we together interpret and, sometimes, change. The heraclitean paradox, after all, can only be overcome by an active intervention in that world which we may know only as we ourselves transform it by an infinite series of acts. Each of our individuated beings is a creation of that very process of interaction. The world shapes us as we change it. You have taught us to recognise it;

to name eppchs and events, to grasp what lies underneath them. Is that perhaps the reason why we respond with palpitating hearts when we look at the banal event of a train chugging on to a platform, amongst the very first moving pictures taken by the Lumiere Brothers? I remember watching these and other equally mundane happenings with Ritwik Ghatak at a film festival here in a package of the Lumiere films.

' We smiled, as if to reaffirm our faith in that magic that could be wrought from these mute, banal, mechanically reproduced images.

The history of cinema, viewed both materially—from the time of the invention of the cinematograph and mentally—ever since the time wt? wished to hold together our perceptions and acts, whether in sounds fashioned with frequency and stress to become vessels of meaning, or in tones, colours and lines to contain a fleeting glimpse of eternity in our desire—has the same movement in time that I experience here in space.

From the mute to the articulate. Indeed, it is a necessary condition for every single work of art that it proceed from an insight unknown to the artist himself: an insight of which the artist has a suggestion or a feeling, unnamed and yet un-nameable, constantly present. The presence of a thought that he cannot recognise. The gratuitousness of sensations that grow from self-evolving forms. Like cells in the body, each made like the other, yet each

Film maker based in Bombay

The Damodaran Memorial Lecture, delivered at Jawaharlal Nehru University


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