Amit Dutta

Arts Practice

Grant Period: One year and six months

Amit Dutta graduated in film direction from the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. His films have won several awards including the FIPRESCI International Film Critic’s Award at the Oberhausen Film Festival, Germany; Gold Mikaldi at Bilbao, Spain; Golden Conch and Best Film of the Festival award at the Mumbai International Film Festival; John Abraham National Award by Federation of Film Societies of India, Kerala; and four National Awards from the President of India for best audiography, cinematography and special jury. His films have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate London; The Academy of Arts of Berlin; Venice Film festival; and Berlin Film festival, among others. He has written three books, and has taught at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the FTII. In 2015, he joined the Indian Institute of Advanced Study as a Tagore fellow. In 2007-08 he had received a grant from India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) to research into the life of Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam and the events, characters and art philosophies that led to his untimely death in Japan. The outcome of the grant was a short film, Jangarh Film-One and a detailed report.

Besides his illustrious film making career, Amit is also a keen chess enthusiast. He has researched and written on the history of chess. One of the top Correspondence Chess players in the country, he has many accolades to his name in this area. In his current project he explores an essay titled Wittgenstein Plays Chess with Duchamp or How Not to Do Philosophy: Wittgenstein on Mistakes of Surface and Depth written by Steven B Gerrard. The essay begins with a chess problem where a player with black pawns will always lose, irrespective of the subsequent moves. However, in time the player can keep postponing the end rather than trying to win, and end up losing. The essay talks about the playful juxtaposition of Wittgenstein's approach to human perception, pattern recognition and making meanings of the world. Both Wittgenstein and Duchamp had avid interest in chess and the game had considerably influenced their work. As a rated Correspondence Chess player, Amit wants to explore the juxtaposition of ideas from philosophy, visual art, chess, mathematics, geometry, linguistics and psychology through cinema.

As a film practitioner, Amit has faced difficulty working outside the ‘industry’ and trying to find a self-sufficient language of cinema. The costs of the medium and the industrialised structure in India have so far been prohibitive for independent filmmakers keen on exploring the artistic possibilities of the medium beyond its profit motive. But the advent of digital technology and proliferation of web based services in the recent years have made conventional filmmaking tools accessible to smaller budget initiatives. The medium has also become increasingly intimate and democratic. According to Amit, “Animation, especially, is more suited to an interdisciplinary approach, which is very important for me in the pursuit of the alternate possibilities of film-art.”

Using cut-out animation along with found and archival footage, sounds and voices Amit is going to make a mixed-media animation film to freely interpret the essay. He may also shoot live action footage if required. In a world plagued by an overload of information, where super computers with the capability of defeating grand masters of chess in seconds are continuously analysing big data, there are pockets deep within and outside the information grid that are unaccounted for. The film inspects whether it is worthwhile to attempt to recognise facts, make the right analyses and form fast opinions in this situation. Borrowing from the chess problem at the beginning of the essay, he intends to use the time-bound medium of film to postpone the end of the game without giving up the analysis of the surface of information.

The outcome of the project will be an animation film of 15 minutes. The film, process documentation stills and photo-documentation of the artworks created for the animation will be deposited as deliverables. Professor Steven Gerrard has given him permission to use the essay and agreed to participate in the process. Amit Dutta is already a revered name in contemporary experimental cinema. The project promises to be a complex work of cinematic value. His timeline and budget are realistic and commensurate to the needs of the project.