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THE CINEM OF PRAYGA

AMRIT GANGAR

In 1949, Einstein pointed out to me during one of several long and highly involved
private technical discussions that certain beautifully formulated theories of his would
mean that the whole universe consisted of no more than two charged particles. Then he
added with a rueful smile, Perhaps I have been working on the wrong lines, and nature
does not obey differential equations after all. If a scientist of his rank could face the
possibility that his entire lifework might have to be discarded, could I insist that the
theorems whose inner beauty brought me so much pleasure after heavy toil must be of
profound significance in natural philosophy? Fashions change quickly in physics where
theory is so rapidly outstripped by experiment.

D.D.Kosambi
1

The late Prof D.D. Kosambi was perhaps one of those few Indians who had grasped the
modern transformation of science and its implications, particularly for India. He was,
perhaps, the only one who had endeavored to act on a wide canvas, to make the scientists
of this country realize their tasks and catalyze the tradition-bound society. Through the
study and his writings on Indian history, mythology and religion, literature and sociology
he not only applied scientific methods to these areas but also showed that new
explanations to age-old beliefs were desirable and possible.

Interestingly, Prof Kosambi has left a profound influence on some of our progressive,
innovative filmmakers - Kumar Shahani, in particular. Prof Kosambi lived in Poona
(Pune), close to the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII). As Shahani told me once,
Prof Kosambi had good insights into cinematography, too. As a great teacher he would
take young Shahani to the surrounding areas; on the way he would pick up a pebble and
start narrating history. History, for Prof Kosambi, was at ones doorstep. History at the
Doorstep was his radical concept to study and understand the past. Some of his field
works are extremely significant.
2


Einsteins dilemma or self-doubt also reminds me of Stan Brakhage regretting in an
interview about his underestimating the historical flypaper he was stuck in. I didnt

1
Steps in Science, D.D. Kosambi in Prof D.D. Kosambi Commemoration Volume, Science and Human
Progress, Popular Prakashan, Bombay 1974.
2
Shahani learnt Sanskrit and history under the guidance of Prof Kosambi whose studies of Indian myths
and their relation to social substrata and popular religion left deep impression on him. In 1967-68, Shahani
was awarded a scholarship by the French Government to study cinema. He studied at the IDHEC in Paris,
and for a short time assisted on the shooting of Bressons film Une Femme Douce. Prof D.D. Kosambis
last major work was The Culture and Civilization of Ancient India in Historical Outline, Vikas Publishing
House Pvt Ltd., New Delhi, 1970. Originally published in London in 1965. This has been translated into
several European and Asiatic languages. Prof Kosambi travelled everyday from Poona to Bombay
(Mumbai) to teach Mathematics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). The Poona-
Bombay-Poona train, Deccan Queen, had become his second home and people would write letters to him:
Prof D.D.Kosambi, Deccan Queen.
1
realize until much later how people in their daily living imitate the narrative-dramatic
materials that infiltrate their lives through the radio, TV, newspapers and, certainly, the
movies. He also felt that despite all the evolutions of his film grammar and his
inclusion of hypnagogic and dream vision, they were still tied to the more traditional
dramatic-narrative framework! It is, I think, a trial and error game that one keeps
playing, always in pra-kriy, the process, creative or post-creative. But there is a
difference between empirical sciences and the plastic arts such as cinematography. What,
however, puzzles me is Brakhages repeated use of the term film grammar which is
essentially rules bound whereas avant-garde, to my mind, is iconoclastic.
3
It is interesting
to note from Prof Kosambis comment that even in physics, fashions change quickly and
theory is so rapidly outstripped by experiment. Does this, or has it, happen/d in the praxis
of experimental cinematography? Later in this essay and in the context of Cinema of
Prayga and the Euro-American avant-garde and underground cinema, I propose to refer
to the kind of unsteady axes these terms have always stood on, floundering.

The Spirit of Experimentation

It was during the Experimenta 2005 in Mumbai I thought of creating the term Cinema
of Prayga, as a prayya, an alternative to Experimental Film and its synonyms.
4

[Prayga is pronounced as prayg, and paryya as paryy]. And I wrote briefly about it in
the festival catalogue. Since the first explorations into the so-called experimental / avant-
garde / underground films started in Western Europe and North America, naturally the
relevant theories also emerged from there. Why so? Isnt experimentation intrinsically
universal in one form or another? In the times when, the Euro-American establishment
can only assimilate non-western art on manifestly ethnographic terms while keeping the
option open to reject it precisely on those terms, how do we recognize the avant-garde in
India? Do experiments happen in isolation of local conditions? Do experiments rapidly
outstrip theories across the spectrum? Or, in particular, how stable the theories or
paradigms of these operative terms have been vis--vis developing cinematography and
its technology? And does the experiment end once the artist has completed his work? If
so, are we talking about just the process that the experimental film has gone through?
These are some of the questions (and they are not actually new) that have been troubling
my mind for quite some time, and in the context, I would like to check whether the idea
of cinema of prayga could be put in currency in the global cinematographic vocabulary
and discourse for better employment and use. Prayga includes both these applications.
While examining and elaborating the term prayga, I would also like to explore and
contextualize Indian film history in brief. It is also of interest to see the Indian political
economy entering the realm of the experimental.


3
Stan Brakhage: The 60
th
birthday interview, Suranjan Ganguly, Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader,
Eds. Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Andrey Foster, Reoutledge, 2002. Even if he creates the
particular grammar, it still presumes rigid rules to follow. Many still believe film is a language. Lev
Manovich titles his book, The Language of New Media. A problematic.
4
Paryya could also mean synonym, a convertible term. The Jaina philosophical etymology of paryya
suggests a mood or state of being. Or whatever has origin and end or destruction in time is paryya.
Source: An Encyclopaedia of Jainism, P.C. Nahar and K.C. Ghosh, Sri Satguru Publications, New Delhi,
1996; First Edition, Calcutta 1917.
2
In fact, the so-called experiment works in the form and with or without the form.
5

Again the question - what after all is not experimental? looms large. This essay would
branch itself into multiple but integral streams, all finally flowing into the mahsgar,
ocean of prayga.
ExperimentalEnvironmental

Amit Dutta, the youngest artist in the Cinema of Prayga programme believes that
everybody is born experimental. Or as Ritwik Ghatak said, experimentation is an ever-
living and never dying thing.
6
Experiment is part of life so why name it, why label it. To
my mind at the moment, the three most experimental objects or organisms that we always
live in are: food, architecture, and erotology. All these are experiments-in-perpetuation.
Look at food and the way we experiment with it all the time, look at its history, it is
nothing but the history of experimentation, underground or over-ground, inside the oven
or outside it, front guard or rear guard, less spicy or more. The configurations keep on
changing, even the way the vegetable or meat is cut and placed. The gastronomic
aesthetics is a glocal experiment; it has its visuality and aurality, plus the smell. And the
sound.
7
But I havent yet found the term experimental gastronomy or avant-garde food
except the explorations made in molecular gastronomy.
8
Architecture has its own avant-
garde and experimental history, but not without problems. The fact is, like the art of
culinary; the art of architecture affects us the most.
9
Architecture was the first obvious
sign of post-modernism, just around the corner of our living place, or across the street -
anywhere in the world.

And thirdly, Erotology, that fathoms the human body, mind and its deepest environs, in
the realm of fantasy, pleasure and pain. One of the greatest experimental work of art, a
grand prayga, in this realm is Vtsyyanas Kma Stra. It is a manual for erotic
specialists, in the same sense that Kautilyas Arthashstra is one of the most open-ended
manual for power specialists, and it drily lists the techniques of sex. There is a
widespread notion among foreigners that every literate Indian reads the Kma Stra.
10


5
Jonas Mekas said, If all people could sit and watch the Empire State Building for eight hours and
meditate upon it, there would be no more wars, no hate, no terror there would be happiness regained upon
earth. On Cinema Verite, Ricky Leacock and Warhol, Movie Journal, 154-155, quoted in Experimental
Cinema: The Film Reader, Eds. Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Routledge, 2002.
This could be a good (pra) yoga exercise.
6
Experimental Cinema, Ritwik Ghatak, Cinema and I, Ritwik Memorial Trust, Calcutta 1987.
7
It was quite amusing to know from an artist having allergy to the sound of a mango being cut. I call it an
acoustic allergy. Some may have visual allergies, too.
8
Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor, Herve This, Malcolm DeBevoise (Translator),
Columbia University Press, 2005. Originally published in French.
9
The Indian city of Chandigarh was designed by Le Corbusier and built largely in the 1950s. The citys
design is a matter of criticism and debate among the architectural fraternity. Chandigarh is a union territory
(administered by the central government of India) and it is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab states.
10
The Speaking Tree: A Study of Indian Culture and Society, Richard Lannoy, OUP, New Selhi 1971.
Interpretationally, Mira Nairs film Kma Stra (19) remains experimental. Censorship, suppression, and
the depredations of time have had their way, and consequently, for lack of other, and probably earlier, texts
surviving, the Kma Stra has become a historical landmark in erotology. The Arthashstra is one of the
worlds earliest books devoted to statecraft.
3
I think if we contextualize experiment environmentally, or environment experimentally,
we get a transcendental experience of the realm of cinematography. It is always in the
process. The naming or labelling perhaps helps give it a push, to polemicize the thought
that dies and takes birth again to die. The term prayga suggests the eternal quest, a
continuing process in time and space. And it is not exclusivist. It, I think, would create
an ecology of aesthetics.
11
In its comprehensive sense, the word ecology is crucial in
our context. According to French philosopher and mathematician, Michel Serres, the
American philosopher Henri David Thoreau (1817-1862) must have invented this word
in 1852. In the French language, it appeared for the first time around 1874, following the
German usage proposed by the biologist-philosopher Ernst Heinrich August Haeckel
(1834-1919) in 1866. Since then ecology has generally acquired two meanings: as
reference to a scientific discipline, dedicated to the study of more or less numerous sets of
living beings interacting with their environment. And secondly, ecology also refers to the
controversial ideological and political doctrine varying from author to author, or group to
group, that aims at the protection of the environment through diverse means.
12

Experimental or avant-garde theatre has happened all over the world, either on stage, or
in streets. As Richard Schechner comments, Much of the post-war avant-garde is an
attempt to overcome fragmentation by approaching performance as a part of rather than
apart from the community. Sometimes this community is the community of the artists
making the work; this has been the pattern in New York, London, Paris and other
Western cities. Sometimes as in the general uprisings of 1968 the art is joined to large
political movements. Sometimes, as in black and Chicano theatre, and more recently in
other special interest theatres, the artists identify with even help to form a sense of
ethnic, racial or political identity. This community-related avant-garde is not only a
phenomenon of the industrialized West, but also of countries that are industrializing or
undergoing great changes in social organization.
13
Theatre makes it possible, because it
is much more physical than the cinema? But I think here there is much more conceptual
clarity, so it is perhaps in avant-garde music.
14
In Indian classical music (both Hindustani
and Carnatic) the prayga or praygam (both in the sense of experimentation and usage),
is an integral part. The relationship between Yoga-Tantra and music is another wonderful
area of pra-yga study to intensify its ecology.
15



11
Stan Brakhages phrase in his interview with Niranjan Ganguly, Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader.
12
Revisiting The Natural Contract, Michel Serres, Tr. Anne-Marie Freenberg-Dibon, CTheory: Theory,
Technology and Culture, Vol.29, Nos.1-2, 11 May 2006, Eds. Arthur and Marilouise Kroker.
http://www.ctheory.net
13
Performative Circumstances From The Avant Garde to Ramlila, Richard Schechner, Seagull Books,
Calcutta 1983.
14
My reference is to Trilok Gurtus music. Widely considered one of his generations greatest
percussionists, Gurtu perfected a technique that draws equally from local and foreign percussion
instruments. He even dipped resonating instruments in buckets of water to produce sounds that he could not
produce with traditional instruments. Illaiyaraja is yet another prayga musician from Tamil Nadu in South
India, who has experimented with different kinds of musical forms. He has also scored music for hundreds
of Indian films. Drawing on gamelon and Indian raga, Phillip Glasss music is yet another example.
15
In this regard, Music scholar Prem Lata Sharmas paper Akasa and Sound: With Special Reference to
Music, in Concepts of Space: Ancient and Modern, Ed. Kapila Vatsyayan, Indira Gandhi National Centre
for the Arts, Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 1991, is highly evocative.
4
IndianEnvironment: StateFundingSpiritofPrayga
FilmFinanceCorporation et al

India is a peculiar case. On one hand we have some of the craziest kinds of popular
culture imagery or art works, breaking all the conservative or non-conservative rules,
while on the other we see our cinematography feeling increasingly shy of bold
prayga.
16
At the initiative of independent Indias first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru,
the Film Finance Corporation (FFC), later becoming the National Film Development
Corporation (NFDC), the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) and the National
Film Archive of India (NFAI) were set up in the 1960s.
17
FFCs original objective was to
promote and assist the mainstream film industry by providing, affording or procuring
finance or other facilities for the production of films of good standard.
18
Later, under the
direct influence of then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, the FFC initiated the New Indian
Cinema (media dubbed it as Indian New Wave) with Mrinal Sens Bhuvan Shome and
Mani Kauls Uski Roti (A Days Bread), both made in 1969. This indeed was a national
prayga in cultural-political economy. Kauls debut was an adaptation of a short story by
the noted Hindi author Mohan Rakesh and was perhaps the first consistently formal
experiment in Indian cinema.
19
While this state-funded film was violently attacked in the
popular media, aesthetically sensitive intelligentsia defended it across the country.

Paradoxically this new movement was born of a governmental decision and not from the
impetus of filmmakers rebelling against the existing commercial or popular cinema. The
public institutional aid created its own problematic. In most cases, the financial aid was
very meagre and that many a time became detrimental to the formal vision of the film.
But eventually, because the prizes and awards won by these small budget films led to
the feeling that only small was artistic.
20
But nevertheless, as the English proverb,
Necessity is the mother of Invention, goes, innovative auteur filmmakers found
creative ways to make films, the body of which was eventually called the parallel
cinema in India; parallel to the mainstream. In between the parallel-mainstream poles
also emerged the middle-roader cinema, the one that compromised between the two in
order to attract more viewers.
21
The scenario was noisy with loud rhetoric against the

16
One of the reasons for this is heavily loaded and presumptuous censorship, both moral and political. In
fact, its B and C films that seem more interesting at times.
17
The year 2005 celebrated golden jubilee of several art and science institutions that were established at
Nehrus initiative: National Museum of Modern Art, the Lalit Kala Akademi for the visual arts; the
Sangeet Natak Akademi for the performing arts; Sahitya Akademi for literary arts; the Indian Institutes
of Technology in different parts of the country for various branches of science and technology; and in the
realm of cinematographic arts the Films Division, the Children Film Society of India; the FFC, the FTII,
the NFAI. Those were the times of cultural rejuvenation throughout India that was still trying to build
herself socially and economically after centuries of colonial oppression and loot.
18
The S.K. Patil Film Enquiry Committee Report, Government of India, New Delhi, 1951.
19
Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, New Revised Edition, Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Paul Willeman, British
Film Institute, Oxford University Press, London, New Delhi, 1999.
20
The New Indian Cinema, Aruna Vasudev, in Indomania: Indian Cinema from the Origins to Today
(collection), Paris, Cinematheque Francaise / Musee du Cinema, 1996 (in French)
21
Buddha took the Middle Path between the extremely ascetic Jainism on one hand and the more opulent
Hinduism on the other. In China, Mao Tse-tung, called it middle-of-the-road politically. I dont know
whether Indian journalists had these nuances in mind.
5
state funded filmmakers who took initiatives to rigorously explore the potential of
cinematography in their works. Many said it was waste of public money. In these times,
filmmakers such as Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani made some of the most serious films,
beginning with Uski Roti and Maya Darpan (Mirror of Illusion, 1972), respectively. One
of the most remarkable avant-garde
22
films Ghasiram Kotwal (1976) was made by the
Yukt Film Cooperative. It was co-directed by the Cooperatives founders, Mani Kaul, K.
Hariharan, Saeed Mirza and Kamal Swaroop, and was shot by the cameramen Binod
Pradhan, Rajesh Joshi, Manmohan Singh and Virendra Saini all FTII alumni.
Interestingly a nationalised bank financed this film in those days when the film industry
was not recognized as such officially.
23

FilmsDivision
ExperimentofGovernmentMadeExperimentalFilms!

It is quite interesting to see the category of Experimental Films in the Indian
Government owned Films Divisions catalogue. However, as Jag Mohan, the author of a
book on the Films Division said, Experimental films as understood in the West have
made slow progress at the FD. From its inception, the FD has been concerned with
information, educational and propaganda films. The utilitarian aspect of the film is
primary consideration in the selection of subjects. Besides, the Film Advisory Board,
which approves films for public exhibition through the FD circuit, also keeps a watchful
eye on the utilitarian value of the films. Thus films of the type popularised by Norman
McLaren, Len Lye, Lotte Reiniger, Maya Deren and later by the American Underground
filmmakers cannot be found here. Probably for hitherto underdeveloped and now a
developing country like India, such films are a luxury.
24
According to Marie Seton,
some of the Films Division films had practical as well as artistic value. They make their
impact, strikingly different as they are because they have a style of their own. They are
mature films.
25

Nevertheless, the Films Division did venture into this so-called luxury. The late Vijay
B. Chandra, who was then FDs Chief Producer (later the first Director of the Bombay
International Film Festival for Documentary, Short & Short Films launched in 1990)

22
Remarkable avant-garde experiment in collective filmmaking, Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, Eds.
Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Paul Willemen, British Film Institute, Oxford University Press, 1999. (Italics added)
23
Dena Bank (Mumbai) financed it. Once I met a Manager of this bank to the film to screen it in Screen
Unit, the film society I headed. Thanks to the kind manager, I got it and presented it sometime in the 1980s.
In fact, it was subject to a court order from the bank and that delayed its general screening after the premier
in Madras in January 1977. Unfortunately, very few people have seen this film. Fourteen private banks
were nationalised in 1969 by the Government of India headed by Mrs Gandhi. Interestingly, the worlds
biggest film industry was not recognized officially as industry by the Government of India as other
industries were. As a result, no private film producer could approach the public finance institutions,
including banks, for loans. Such recognition has been given only recently in 1998.
24
Documentary Films and Indian Awakening, published by Government of Indias Publications Division
was released during the first (1990) Bombay International Film Festival for Documentary, Short &
Animation Films organized by the Films Division. Held every two years, this festival has been instrumental
in inspiring many young filmmakers in the country. John Grierson is said to have advised Pramod Pati that
the kind of films he was making was a luxury for a country like India.
25
Ibid.
6
always talked about producing visually stimulating food for thought to nourish Indias
millions of illiterate people. To whatever extent, it was the public sector Films Division
that took the risk of making films such as Explorer (Pramod Pati, 1968), And I Make
Short Films (S.N.S. Sastry, 1968), Trip (Pramod Pati, 1970), Child on a Chess Board
(Vijay B. Chandra, 1979); all these filmmakers were the FD staffers.

Mani Kaul has made several interesting documentaries for the Films Division, as an
outside independent producer. And there are many other young and old leading
filmmakers - including Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan,
G. Arvindan, Kamal Swaroop, Rajat Kapoor - whose films are in the FDs collection. As
the Founder Director of Datakino, I had the opportunity of setting up a comprehensive
database of the entire FD output from its inception to the year 1995 - over 8,000
newsreels, newsmagazines, documentary, short features, and animation films. We did it
on a primitive PC286, without Windows; I would jocularly call this project like making
of Pather Panchali (Song of the Road, 1955) that Satyajit Ray could make without
enough resources. Of late, the Films Division has updated the Database and made it
Window based.

It was in December 1947 (India attained independence on 15 August 1947) that the
Standing Finance Committee of the Government India approved the scheme for the
revival of a film producing and distributing organization, as a mass media unit of the
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B).
26
At first christened as the Film Unit of
the Ministry of I&B and finally renamed as the Films Division in April 1948, it was
described as the official organ of the Government of India for the production and
distribution of information films and newsreels. The documentaries were to be released
under the banner of Documentary Films of India while the newsreels under Indian
News Reviews. It was mandatory for all the cinema houses (over 12,900 permanent and
touring cinemas) in the country to show the documentaries and newsreels produced by
the Films Division. Produced in fourteen major Indian languages of the country, over 300
prints of each documentary and newsreel went for the first and second weeks to first-run
theatres, and later-run halls over a period of up to nine months until this batch of prints
was withdrawn. The cinemas paid the Films Division for the hire of these films on a
contractual basis. The annual output of over 30,000 prints in 35mm and 16mm included
not only the copies for theatres, but also prints supplied free of change for use on the
mobile units of the Central and State Governments, those selected by Indian diplomatic
and trade missions abroad for their territories, those distributed for foreign television and
theatrical hiring outlets, and films supplied for prestige and publicity to international
festivals and other occasions. Over 15,83,654 prints of its films had been in circulation by

26
Films Divisions predecessors were the Film Advisory Board set up by the British in 1940 to produce
war effort films; and the Information Films of India and the Indian News Parade (which later became the
Indian newsreel) set up in 1943. Since the FAB films were not very popular with the exhibitors and the
audiences alike, the British Government was keen to reach its war propaganda films to the maximum
number of people. In order to achieve this aim, it resorted to the defence of India Rules. Through Rule 44A,
the exhibitors were compelled to include in each and every show a maximum of 2,000 feet of film
approved by the Government. After independence, the Films Division continued this legacy.
7
1987.
27
Imagine millions of people watching the Films Divisions Experimental Films
across the county.

Historically, this is not very unique to India alone. The Soviet Union, under the dynamic
leadership of Vladimir Lenin had marched far ahead in producing radical experimental
cinematography. It was Lenin who supported Dziga Vertov (Denis Arkadievitch
Kaufman) when, early in 1922, he told the Commissar of Education, Anatoli
Lunacharsky, Of all the arts, for us, film is the most important.
28
Indias first Prime
Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had understood the potential of cinematography but his
mentor Mahatma Gandhi had a different opinion.

IndianPoliticalLeadership
AttitudesTowardsCinema

Mahatma Gandhi was not well disposed towards cinema no matter his work had
influenced many a filmmaker in those early days of Indian cinema. Gandhis dislike for
cinema is evident in his note to the Indian Cinematograph Committee (the Rangachariyar
Committee) in 1927-28. Again in 1938, on the occasion of the film industrys
anniversary, a Bombay trade paper asked Gandhi for a congratulatory message; his
secretary responded, As a rule Gandhiji gives message only on rare occasions and
those only for causes whose virtue is ever undoubtful. As for the cinema industry he has
the least interest in it and one may not expect a word of appreciation from him.
Journalist-turned-filmmaker K.A. Abbas wrote an open letter to Gandhi and while
greeting him on his 71
st
birth anniversary, Abbas said, I have no knowledge of how you
came to such a poor opinion of the cinema. I dont know if you have ever cared to see a
motion picture. I can only imagine that, rushing from one political meeting to another,
you chanced to catch a glimpse of some lewd cinema posters that disfigure the city walls
and concluded that all the films are evil and that the cinema is a playhouse of the devil.
In his letter, Abbas also provided a list of Indian and foreign films which were
unexceptionable even from the viewpoint of the strictest moralist.
29
Had Gandhi and
others taken interest in the budding filmmaking enterprise during 1930s and 1940s,
would the Indian cinema have taken a different shape?
30

PhalkesPioneeringExperiment
WithFormAndFunds

When Dhundiraj Govind Phalke (1870-1944) pioneered feature filmmaking in India in
1913,
31
India was still a British colony. Dadasaheb (as he was popularly known) Phalke

27
Documentary Films and Indian Awakening, Jag Mohan, Publications Division, Government of India,
New Delhi, 1990. Now it is not mandatory for the cinemas in India to show the films produced by the
Films Division.
28
Retrospectives, Amrit Gangar, 4
th
Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short &
Animation Films, 1996.
29
Film India, October 1939.
30
The Movies They Missed, Amrit Gangar, Independent, 29.06.1997
31
The Indian story film, Pundalik, about a Hindu saint, was made in Bombay and released on 18 May
1912, but it was a filmed play.
8
was a versatile artist; he learnt and pursued many arts and crafts including drawing,
painting, printing, engraving, photography, moulding, architecture, music, magic and
amateur acting. Thus he was a complete karmaygi (man of action) prayga person.
32

After watching the film Life of Christ at the America-India cinema in Bombay during
Christmas in 1910, he had decided to make a film featuring Hindu gods and goddesses.
33

As he wrote, While the life of Christ was rolling fast before my physical eyes, I was
mentally visualising the Gods, Shri Krishna, Shri Ramchandra, their Gokul and Ayodhya.
I was gripped by a strange spell. Could we, the sons of India, ever be able to see Indian
images on the screen?
34
He was forty then and without any dependable source of
income on which his family could fall back, and since he was not prepared to do anything
else except his experiments in filmmaking the future was dark, insecure. Undaunted, he
made a short film Growth of a Pea Plant to convince his potential financier. Incidentally,
through this film, he introduced the concept of time-lapse photography as also the first
indigenous or swadeshi instructional film. To get the first hand knowledge of necessary
equipment, he went to London, pledging his insurance policies. There, Mr Carbourne,
editor of the Bioscope weekly helped him to identify the right camera and other
equipment as well as raw negative film. He also introduced Phalke to Cecil Hepworth
who took him around his studio.

Back home in April 1912, Phalke busied himself making his / Indias first silent feature
film Raja Harishchandra (King Harishchandra). It was released on 13 May 1913 at
Bombays Coronation Cinema.
35
About the most upright and truthful king, the film was
based on a story from the epic Mahabharata.
36
The film was advertised as an entirely
Indian production by Indians, indicating Phalkes resolve to establish a new swadeshi
or Indias own industry in those colonial times. Gandhi was yet to return home from
South Africa. Lanka Dahan (Lanka Aflame, 1917) was a big success and he could make

32
On 30
th
April, his 136
th
birthday was celebrated at Trayambakeshwar (29 km from Nasik) where he was
born and had spent his childhood. His bust was installed there on this day. Report in Loksatta (Marathi), 30
April 2006.
33
This could be a Pathe film. Earliest parts of the film Life of Christ seem to have been traced to 1898 but
the addition of two reels in better form must have been completed in 1905. It was then re-released as The
Life and Passion of Jesus Christ, and similarly was expanded again to 3 reels in 1908 and re-released under
the same title. The colour tinted film of 31 tableaux with a running time of 44 minutes became the most
impressive of its kind and one of the first long films in the world. These films were presented by
missionaries and itinerant showmen all over the world. My guess is that Phalke must have seen this re-
released verion of Life of Christ. In an interview published in Kesari of 19 August 1913, Phalke mentions
about the Pathe Company of France and says that most of the films coming to India were from this
Company.
34
Marathi journal Navyug, November 1917. Shri or Shree is a honorific prefix to the names of great men,
gods, and celebrated works. Gokul, the village where Krishna passed his childhood. Ayodhya, Ramas birth
place.
35
The Phalke Saga, B.V. Dharap, Phalke Centenary Souvenir, the Phalke Centenary Celebrations
Committee, Bombay, 30
th
April 1970.
36
In his Autobiography (The Story of My Experiments with Truth), Gandhi remembers to have seen the
play Harishchandra and how it had affected him deeply. When Phalke released his film, the play had
already become very popular and in that sense, Phalke had selected a safe subject for his debut film.
9
a new version of Raja Harishchandra.
37
Released in 1918, Shree Krishna Janma (Birth
of Shree Krishna) was made by the new Hindustan Film Company of which Phalke was a
working partner with other five financing partners. Feeling bitter, due to internal
differences, Phalke took a voluntary retirement and went to the holy city of Benaras
towards the end of 1919. However, convinced by several other producers, Phalke
rejoined restructured Hindustan and remained there until it folded up in 1932, when
Indian sound film was barely a year old. The last silent film directed by Phalke for
Hindustan was Setu Bandhan but with the advent of sound, the film had to be post-
synchronised. It flopped. On 16 February 1944, Phalke died pauper at the age of 74 in
Nasik. like those two other pioneers of early films, George Melies in France and Fraise
Green in England.
38


In our Indian prayga context, Phalke occupies a significant space because, besides being
a pioneer, he personified the prayga spirit in those awkward times. It is an open secret
that Melies had already made a fantastic film such as A Trip to the Moon in 1902 and
Phalke took ten more years to produce his first feature film, which does not survive in
toto, but we do get a definite idea about his insights into the art and its craft. He wanted
to prove to the British that an Indian working under primitive conditions could make
films too. On aesthetic level, Phalkes tableaux remind us of Raja Ravi Varmas
oleograph paintings. As Ashish Rajadhyaksha mentions, The painter Raja Ravi Varma
was in many ways the direct cultural predecessor to Phalke, greatly influencing his
themes, his images, his views on culture.
39
Phalke mixed his patriotic swadeshi spirit
with his cinematographic prayga experimental praxis in constructing the gaze, the
frame, the space and time. Comparing Lumieres LArroseur arrose, Rajadhyaksha
observes that in Phalke there is almost no definition of time; the contiguities are
employed in the different states of seeing as they come together. The story, if there is
one, is a continuous back-and-forth interaction between the viewers and the object
viewed; we are shown the imaginary universe condensed into the object, our seeing is
reciprocated.
40
Apparently, Phalke was aware about the plastic potential of the medium
he was working in. In nutshell, Phalke provides the earliest example of Indias private
filmmaking enterprise as against the post-colonial public Films Division.
41

GoodCinemaBadCinema
ArtFilmCommercialFilm


37
It has been generally accepted by now that the prints of Raja Harishchandra that the National Film
Archive of India has are of 1917 version and not the original 1913. Only 1475 ft of the original film (2944
ft) appear to have survived. The 1913 version was 3700 ft long. Of Lanka Dahan, only a fragment of 484 ft
survives, out of the original 3000 ft. Of Shree Krishna Janma, 534 ft. out of the original 5500 ft.
38
The Phalke Saga, B.V. Dharap, Phalke Centenary Souvenir.
39
Tha Phalke Era: Conflict of Traditional Form and Modern Technology, Ashish Rajadhyakaha, Journal
of Arts & Ideas, Number 14-15, July-December 1987. This seminal essay makes significant associations to
understand Phalkes life and work in the Indian context.
40
Ibid.
41
Kamal Swaroop has been working on his Phalke Project for long and has also made the film Phalkes
Children for the Films Division.
10
It was in the 1960s and 1970s, the divide between the so-called art and commercial
film became rhetorically pronounced, often becoming acerbic. Thousands of national /
mental hours were spent on deciding what was good cinema and its corollary bad.
This obviously moralistic stand unfortunately took the toll of the prayga spirit. In
retrospect when I look at this past, its ramifications seem to have been widespread and
serious. Gradually, the rhetoric impacted the FTII and its progressive, pryga outlook
towards cinematography. And as we witnessed, it led cinematography to becoming part
of mass communication and management studies curricula in colleges, depriving millions
of youngsters the experience of facing creative challenges that cinematography
potentially puts forward.

A film magazine
42
interviewed several thinker-filmmakers about what they thought of
good cinema and whether it was viable commercially. The general tone amplified the
Indian artists struggle to make self responsible to her/his art and at the same time to
society at large. As film and theatre director Vijaya Mehta said, The filmmaker must
have a sense of responsibility to the society at large. For Shyam Benegal and Govind
Nihalani, good cinema was one that re-sensitised the sensibility of the people who watch
it. This Self-Social balancing becomes pivotal to art in a country like India, determining
its very nature and its own essential self. And became the fertile terrain for rhetoric to
mushroom.

Nevertheless, beyond all this good-bad debate, what was significant in the prayga
context was Mani Kauls persistent radical cinematographic / philosophical praxis in
Indian cinema. In his film Naukar ki Kameez (Servants Shirt, 1999), he did not let his
cameraman look through the camera while a shot was being taken. He believes, the
moment the eye looks through the camera it appropriates the space it is filming by a
dichotomous organization that splits the experience of that space into a fork: of being
sacred and/or of being profane. Obviously it saves what it knows as sacred from an
exposure to what it thinks is profane. This gives yet another dimension to the
understanding prayga, if I may say so.
43
His philosophy of abhed ksh or undivided
space and its application to cinematography is a part of his prayga. He has been
resisting the idea of the European concept of Renaissance perspective since it splits space
into object-horizon polarity.
44

Today, media has almost completely shunned that period in Indian film history that was
pregnant with a certain youthful restlessness. But strangely it keeps using the word
avant-garde even for the most old-fashioned stuff simply because it seems different
from the crass commercial crap. Recently, a journalist wrote that the older generation of

42
CINEMA India-International, Oct-Dec. 1986.
43
In his essay An Approach to Naukar Ki Kameez, Kaul explains at length this experiment as he calls it,
which he had already tried in his earlier films to some extent. Cinemaya, The Asian Film Quarterly No.31,
Winter 1995-96.
44
Seen From Nowhere, Mani Kaul, Concepts of Space: Ancient and Modern, Ed. Kapila Vatsyayan. In the
Cinemaya essay he said, Prior to the appearance of perspective, the epics and later the chronicles spread
themselves in the manner of poetic elaboration Also see, Abhed Aakash (Undivided Space), Udayan
Vajpayees conversation with Mani Kaul, Madhya Pradesh Film Development Corporation. In Hindi.
11
avant-gardes bridged the gap between masala and art cinema.
45
Did avant-gardism in
cinema in Europe played such a function? For Andrew Sarris, the avant-garde films
pointed the way for commercial movies.

Avant-gardIndianArt
NewFormalismCulturalDifferencePoliticalUrgencies

Early on, the label avant-garde was used especially for the films by filmmakers such as
Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani who, I presume, felt embarrassed since their cinema had
attempted to rigorously revitalise Indian narrative traditions, including the epic.
Interestingly, they could reconcile Ritwik Ghatak and Robert Bresson in their
cinematographic worldview. For their films obvious visual or dialogic slow or static
space and their public praise of Bresson, the journalists dubbed them Bressonian, in the
sense of imitating him.

How do we recognize the avant-garde in India? while raising this pertinent question,
Geeta Kapur, the eminent art critic and author says, The Euro-American establishment
can still only assimilate non-western art on manifestly ethnographic terms, keeping the
option open to reject it precisely on those terms. On the other hand, Asia / Africa /
Australia, not to speak of Latin America, look for a new formalism, an extension of
language on the basis of cultural difference and political urgencies which, because of the
shared history of the 20th century (via capitalism / imperialism), implicates the artists in
global questions: of location and the appropriate forms of political redress from their
vantage point. These artists, living in societies riven with contradictions, ask for
synthesizing universals, for visionary and vanguard initiatives. Kapurs context is Indian
fine arts and within the questions of cultural differences in a changing India.
46


ExperimentalAvant-gardeOldNewUnderground
UnsteadyAxesDoubts

Watching from the hindsight, we could feel how unsteady these nomenclatures or terms
have been historically. I think one of the major problems with these labels was the womb
they were born from; the womb was in movements outside it Dadaism, Surrealism, for
instance, no matter plastic. As Kumar Shahani commented, the avant-garde experiments,
borrowing syntax from the other arts, have been attempts at achieving a kind of

45
TV offers hope for avant-garde filmmakers, Mumbai , 4 Oct 2005 (IANS): Where is Hindi cinema
heading? The movement towards good cinema seems to have petered out into various genres classified as
niche filmmaking, leaving the actual harbingers of art-meets-kitsch cinema panting for breath. While
various new-age filmmakers like Nagesh Kukunoor (Iqbal) and Sujoy Ghosh (Jhankar Beats, Home
Delivery) have benefited from the niche multiplex filmmaking culture, many of the older generation avant-
garde filmmakers like Basu Chatterjee, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar and Shakti Samanta, who bridged
the gap between masala and art cinema, seem to have lost their way. (Subhash K. Jha) In an interview
with Mr Jha, the famous Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan referred to his producing of and acting in Amol
Palekars film Paheli (2005), he said, This is my first real brush with the mindset of an avant-garde
filmmaker.
46
Whats New in Indian Art: Canons, Commodification, Artists on the Edge, Geeta Kapur, 1998. Source:
res artis, Worldwide Networkof Artist Residencies, 9 May 2006.
12
respectability for the cinema.
47
Or as Janet Bergstrom argued, When avant-garde is used
to describe an artistic movement, such as Cubism, it means that the movement is, for a
time, ahead of critical acceptance. But when Cubism becomes absorbed into the
mainstream of the tradition, it is no longer avant-garde. In connection with cinema,
however, avant-garde does not mean in advance of a developing film tradition; it is
taken to mean, rather, apart from the commercial cinema.
48
Especially its own historians
in terms of a development completely separate from that of history of cinema, almost
always see the avant-garde cinema. It is seen in terms of the art world (painting,
graphics, music, poetry, sometimes architecture) rather than the entertainment industry
On the contrary, Andrew Sarris thinks that the avant-garde films point the way for
commercial movies. It is difficult to think of any technical or stylistic innovations
contributed by the avant-garde. Avant-garde critics and filmmakers have had to be
dragged screaming into the eras of sound, colour, and wide-screen. Avant-garde impulses
seem to be channelled toward the shattering of content taboos, political, religious, and
sexual. Luis Bunuel and Rene Claire have come out of the avant-garde, and some think
that Cocteau never left it, but avant-garde mannerisms stand for long the withering gaze
of the camera.
49

Bergsrom also believes that the definitions of avant-garde or experimental cinema have
always been controversial because they have always presupposed value judgments; even
those offered in the most recent histories provoke the kinds of counter-examples, which
imply conflicting opinions about what counts as avant-garde cinema.
50

And with the historic shifts in these movements, terms for the cinema also kept
floundering with self-doubts around the exclusivist factions. Quite earlier on, the sudden
advent of the 1929-depression shook up the dominating art-for-arts sake philosophy of
the avant-gardes. And as Arthur Knight said, with panic, starvation and ruin all about
them, they found it peculiarly inappropriate to the concerned solely with revolving
starfish and swinging pendulums, with textures and prisms and the dream world of the
subconscious. The penetrating works of Soviet realism had been seen and discussed in
the numerous avant-garde cine-clubs that spread through the Continent after 1925. For
many they were a revelation, a proof that the problems relating the real world could be as
intriguing, as challenging and as artistically valid as anything they had done before.
After a decade of altering reality, kidding reality, ignoring reality, they suddenly found
themselves concerned with reproducing reality, substituting social purpose for aesthetic
experiment.
51

The willingness to experiment, to try out new forms, new techniques and ideas, is as vital
to the arts as it is to science. Today, through an unfortunate limiting of the word,
experiment in film has come to be associated almost exclusively with the efforts of small

47
Myths for Sale, Kumar Shahani, Framework 30/31, Dossier: Kumar Shahani, Indian Cinema.
48
The Avant-Garde: History and Theories, Constance Penley and Janet Bergstrom, Movies and Methods,
Vol. II, Ed. Bill Nichols, Seagull Books, Calcutta 1993.
49
Towards a Theory of Film History, Andrews Sarris, Movies and Methods, Ed. Bill Nichols, Seagull
Books, Calcutta 1993.
50
Ibid.
51
The Liveliest Art, Arthur Knight, A Mentor Book 1957.
13
avant-garde coteries working quite apart from the mainstream of motion-picture
production. In fact, a lot of ground or path breaking work in cinematographic aesthetics
and technology had already been done (without any labels). Quite early on, what was
Griffith doing when he pushed his camera closer to the actors against the prevailing
conventions? What was Ritwik Ghatak doing in his radical employment of the
archetypes? Or evolving strange but sweet love between man and machine in Ajantrik,
for example? They were creating newer forms of narrating stories; they were at the
vanguard. Most of the time the artists only reclaim the old to make it new, in newer
contexts and environments. But it is all in a continuum.
52

It was during the 1920s, when the avant-gardes were in full swing on the Continent, that
the idea of experiment became identified exclusively with their peculiar kind of
filmmaking. If a film were abstract, baffling or downright incomprehensible, it could
always be described as experimental. And since these films came from Europe they
were also considered artistic, an assumption based largely upon the native American
tradition that anything European is necessarily more artistic than the native product. Thus
experiment acquired a certain honorific connotation, a quality that has clung to it ever
since. And because the men who were experimenting in the studios, never claimed that
they were doing anything but making films as best they could, a certain preciousness and
little cinema aura gathered about the word as well.
53

Underground Film and Pop Art, as Parker Tyler said, represent the only elites in human
history which insist on the privileges of an elite without any visible means of earning or
sustaining those privileges; that is, without any values that can be measured, or even,
properly speaking, named except by its own labels. A distinct irony of the Underground
is that here the film, the only complete time art of the theatre, exactly duplicating itself
simply by staring the reel over again, declines to take seriously its own historical
integrity. Underground standpoint, is to betray the very lifeblood of the avant-garde.
54

For Andrei Tarkovsky the concept of avant-garde in art was meaningless. The whole
question of avant-garde is peculiar to the twentieth century, to the time when art has
steadily been losing its spirituality.
55
He thinks the avant-gardes were confused by the
new aesthetic structures, lost in the face of the real discoveries and achievements, not
capable of finding any criteria of their own, they included under the one head avant-
garde anything that was not familiar and easily understood just in case, in order not to

52
There is a general belief (due to lack of media coverage or the ignorance created by the so-called
information age) that nothing of substance has happened in Indian cinema after the generations of Mani
Kaul, Kumar Shahani, Saeed Mirza, et al. This is a false notion since there is a younger generation of
filmmakers in India that has created a substantial work of intense as well as playful aesthetics. I am in the
process of curating a programme that I call In Continuum because this generation of filmmakers and their
fellow artists (directors of photography, editors, sound designers, actors) dont work in a void. Incidentally,
it was only later that I came to know about Peter Greenways definition of Cinema as a continuum, though
there is a sense-shift.
53
Ibid.
54
Underground Film: A Critical History, Parker Tyler, Penguin Books, 1969.
55
Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky, The Bodley Head, London 1986.
14
be wrong.
56
Tarkovsky, even questions the experimentation in art: How can you
experiment in art? Can one talk of experiment in relation to the birth of a child?

Experiment, according to Richard Schechner, is going beyond the boundaries, though he
thinks experimentation in theatre was dead. Theres not much of that going on these
days. As things have gotten desperate outside of theatre, theyve overcome more
conservative within. The great period of experimentation that began in the fifties ended
by the mid-seventies. What is, however, interesting for him is the foundation of
practice bestowed by the experimental period. This foundation is a performance art
based on post-modern consciousness.
57

Experimental film or the avant-garde cinema doesnt seem to be sharing this experience
with theatre, maybe because of its huge technological stake. Every technological change
or shift affects it aesthetically, lately from analog to digital, the new media, for instance.
But still the connection with history cant be snapped.

Applied Avant-gardism has often met with its death. It has also become like the
chameleon, changing garbs and loyalties. The author of A History of Experimental Film
and Video, A.L. Rees, thinks, Using the terms avant-garde, or even experimental,
film at this late date may appear anachronistic or a provocation. For a long time they have
scarcely been used without some degree of embarrassment. It was applied loosely to
artists filmmaking from the 1920s, but peaked in the 1970s when it ousted the term
underground film as a seemingly more serious name for the then rising structural film
movement.
58

Lucie-Smith: Can you give a definition of avant-garde?
Greenberg: You dont define it; you recognize it, as a historical phenomenon.
59


Is Greenberg talking about historical avant-garde?
INTERMISSION
Once upon a time there was a Diary
and CandyAndy




56
Ibid.
57
Performative Circumstances from the Avant Garde to Ramlila, Richard Schechner, Seagull Books,
Calcutta 1983. Foundation in practice is Victor Turners phrase.
58
A History of Experimental Film and Video, A.L. Rees, London: bfi publishing, 1999. Rees talks about the
deconstruction of the term on two fronts, one internal attack primarily from 1974, with Peter Burgers
Theory of the Avant-Garde, which argued that all contemporary artistic avant-gardes largely rehearsed the
deeds of their 1920s ancestors but failed to achieve their promise. The second onslaught, from outside the
avant-garde that gathered steam since 1980s, claimed that the idea was delusory from the start, a mask or
convenient handle for artists and factions in their power struggles for cultural dominance.
59
Quoted in A.L. Rees from Lucie-Smiths 1968 interview with Clement Greenberg.


15
[] I was in and out of the lunch because I was painting with the sponge mop in the back. I
havent peed on any canvases this week. This is for the Piss paintings. I told Ronnie not to pee
when he gets up in the morning to try to hold it until he gets to the office, because he takes lot of
vitamin B so the canvas turns a really pretty color when its his piss []

Tuesday, June 28, 1977

Experiment, this? Maybe, maybe not. What then is an experiment?
Or experimental, if you like? Questions the subconscious.

[] He said that my idea of piss-painting was old-fashioned because itd been in the movie
Teorema which (laughs) is true, it was. I knew that. And then he said something great he
said that the punks are the Shit Children, because theyre descendents of the beatniks
and the hippies, and hes right. Isnt that great? The Shit Children. He is smart. []

Sunday, March 19, 1978

What is new-fashioned? Is experiment new, novel?
Asks the conscious.

[] Im watching MTV right now. I dont know what else you can do to these videos to make
them different. Theyre all the same. Theyre all like sixties underground movies, people running
around. Like Stan Brakhage and all those kids used to make. []

Monday, May 21, 1984

All those kids?! Smiles history with marks ? and !
History is full of such marks, isnt she? Asks who? History.

Some pre-and-post-pissing lines from Andy Warhols diary pages (in italics).
60

[He = Salvador Dali.]
How about prayga?
61
Queries qualm.
Experiment!
After a long foreplay

876543210
The Main Film Begins

O:
Cinem of Prayga Part I

The loosely equivalent word for the English experiment in Sanskrit is prayga which
has several different connotations, including design, contrivance, device, plan;

60
The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett, Warner Books, 1989. Candy Andy was the nickname
Andy Warhol acquired from editors of a New York magazine. He was born in Russia (St Pittsberg) as
Andrew Warhola. He began his career as an illustrator of womens footwear.

16
application, employment (esp. of drugs and magic); use, practice, experiment (opp.
theory), exhibition (of dance), representation (of a drama), a piece to be represented,
recitation, delivery; praygtisaya (in drama) is excess of representation while
praygrtha means having a sense of prayga.
62
If we deconstruct the word Prayga,
we get Pra+Yoga, where the prefix pra in a way is an engine. As a prefix to verbs, it
means forward, forth, in front, onward, before. In other words, it carries the sense
of vanguard. With adjectives, it means very, excessively; and with nouns, whether
derived from verbs or not, it is used in various senses including, commencement; power,
intensity, source or origin, completion, perfectness, excellence, purity, etc. depending on
what noun it is prefixed to. Among its many interpretations, yga also means uniting,
combination, contact, touch, employment, application, use, charm, spell, incantation,
magic, magical art, substance, deep and abstract meditation, concentration of mind,
contemplation of the Supreme Spirit, which in Yga philosophy is defined as
cittavritinirodha. Yga is the system of philosophy established by Patanjali, etc.
63
As
stated before; I would like to propose prayga as a better alternative to English
experiment-al.

Prayga is also practice or an experimental portion (of a subject); (opp. shstra, theory);
.....|.. .. . ... .... . |.... + Praygatisaya if one of the five kinds of prastvana or
prologue, in which a part or performance is superseded by another in such a manner that
a character is suddenly brought on the stage; i.e. where the Sutradhra goes out hinting
the entrance of a character and thus performs a part superseding that which he has
apparently intended for his own, viz. dancing; Shityadarpana thus defines it: .| ....
+|.. .....:. ..-.. + . . ........ .....|..... ++ [Sahityadarpana = A collection of
materials for the production or performance of anything. Sutradhra = stage manager, a
principal actor who arranges the cast of characters and instructs them, and takes a
prominent part in the Prastvan or prelude, he is thus defined: ... ..-.. ...
....|-.+. + ....-..+. .... :|. .. ++
64

Unlike avant-garde, prayga is a non-military word; it is, in fact, artistic and meditative.
The English laboratory becomes more connected as it is called praygamandir (temple
of prayga) or praygashl (hall or saloon of prayga). The word finds place in all
major Indian languages (northern or southern) and with some interesting derivatives.
Prayogika, for example, is a new word in the Gujarati lexicon, which means a light
essay. While in Hindi, praygavdi is an experimentalist or experimentalistic, while in
Bengali it becomes pragmatic or pragmatist. The general meaning of use or
application is found everywhere. In Malayalam, prayga also means, manipulation,
eagerness to fight, preliminary performance, adj. prayogbhinjan, an expert at tactical


62
A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Sir Monier Monier-Williams, Searchable Digital Facsimile Edition, the
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2002.
63
The Students Sanskrit English Dictionary, Vaman Shivram Apte, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt.
Ltd., Delhi, 1970.
64
The Students Sanskrit English Dictionary, Vaman Shivram Apte, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt.
Ltd., Delhi, 1970.
17
performance, praygthisayam (drama), mode of prologue in a drama, as explained
earlier.
65
Cinem of Prayga Part II

In its meta-text, I would like to call Pramod Patis cinema, the cinema of prayga because
it carries its creators own state, own svabhva, temperament. It has the quality of being
intuitive and congenial, capable of achieving a certain bhvasandhi, a unity of emotions
in its characteristic manner. Prayga was, I think, Patis svabhva (pronounced svabhv)
and hence even on themes such as family planning he created narratives of sharp
curiosities. Pati had learnt the art from Norman McLaren of the National Film Board of
Canada. Then Pati was a 23-year-old man full of youthful exuberance. He also studied
animation filmmaking in Czechoslovakia for a couple of years and returned to India in
1960. Patis wasnt a conscious effort to make something different for its own sake, but
to put his art at stake with his own artistic and idealistic endeavours. Obviously, within
the Films Division constraints, Pati took a risk to make such films. Pati was a man of
prayga, an artist who stuck his own anbhav (experience) and svabhva and integrity.

Cinem of Prayga Part III

So far, the concept Cinema of Prayga has been received very positively in India. Mani
Kaul said, In my mind too the expression 'experimental' evokes an uncomfortable
feeling. It does nothing more than marginalize serious work in cinema. In its
implications, as commonly understood, the word creates a narrow focus on some kind of
isolated cinematic activity. The word 'prayga' is wider and more relevant.

For Ashish Avikunthak the cinema of prayga is defined as much by aesthetics as that
followed by a "theory of practice". "Proyoga is a theory of experimentation that is not
just limited to aesthetics but also the production aspect of cinema. Prayga for me is a
practice of experiment." I believe, we have reached a juncture that needs a fusion (to
clear the historical confusion), a term that captures the flux in its inner self; the
integrative prayga would avoid dualistic paradigms of west versus east, traditional
versus modern (or post-modern, or post-post-modern), etc. Let us explore the Cinema of
Prayga. Amen.

This film has No End
It is a prayga-in-perpetuation
+t O:

65
Brihad Gujarati Kosh (Comprehensive Gujarati Dictionary), Ed. K.K. Shastri, University Book
Production Board, Ahmedabad, Gujarat State, 1976; Vyavaharik Hindi-Angreji Kosh (A Practical Hindi-
English Dictionary), Eds. Mahendra Chaturvedi, Dr B.N. Tiwari, National Publishing House, New Delhi,
1984; Students Favourite Dictionary, Beng. To Eng., Ed. A.T.Dev, Dev Sahitya Kutir Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta,
1972; I am grateful to the filmmaker Sou dhamini (Chennai) for enlightening me on the Tamil meaning;
Professor of Malayalam literature and poet, K.G. Shankara Pillai (Trichur) on Malayalam, filmmaker
Girish Kasaravali (Bangalore) on Kannada, filmmaker B.S. Narsing Rao (Hyderabad) on Telugu.
Author
18