Ranjini Krishnan

Arts Practice

Grant Period: One year

Ranjini Krishnan has a PhD in cultural studies from the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore. As a researcher and screenwriter she has experience in television journalism, video production and qualitative research. She is the producer and script-writer of the National Award winning documentary A Pestering Journey (2010), and was one of the script writers of the feature film Kanyaka Talkies (2013) which won an award for Best Screenplay at the New York Indian Film Festival. Her short stories are part of the anthology of new Malayalam writers published as Puthu Katha (2004) by Current Books. She regularly contributes short stories and poems in leading Malayalam journals and weeklies. Ranjini is the Senior Research Coordinator at Sahapedia, Kochi.

In her PhD thesis, Ranjini looked at the idea, practice and experience by women of the wedding night in contemporary Kerala. She tried to examine the domain of the ‘intimate’ and its erotic economy by interviewing 22 women from the state. While analysing these interviews she observed that in almost all of them there is at least a passing reference to a failed attempt at ‘escape’ from the nuptial chamber. She felt these stories somehow captured the secret of the wedding night. The current project ‘Daughters of Scheherazade’ derives from this supposition.

This project is Ranjini’s debut attempt at experimental video art. The piece derives its name from the Arabic One Thousand and One Nights, a compilation of tales told by the queen Scheherazade, who voluntarily enters the nuptial chamber of the king Shahryar infamous for marrying a virgin every night and beheading them in the morning. Scheherazade, through her storytelling skills delays death for one thousand and one nights till the king decides not to kill her. These tales are also commonly known as the Arabian Nights. The video Ranjini wants to make will attempt to portray the ‘wedding night’ as a cultural practice via image, text and audio. While the visuals depict re-enactments of the cultural specificities of the night through the various symbols worn and manifested by the woman including her bridal attire, the audio invokes the sounds and silences of the encounter. The texts to be used on and off screen draws from the field interviews with the women in the form of sparse and evocative I–Poems, and the writings of Luce Irigaray and Shivakumar Batalvi.

The project is to experiment with a non-linear in form without a definable plot placed at the juncture of cinema, art and psychology. It aims to go beyond the academic tools of laboratory experiments and statistical data of psychology and addresses the psychic significance of an intimate human experience. Situated between the academic and the experiential, it attempts to engage with the theory and practice of cinema in its hybrid form. For IFA this project is of relevance since it pushes boundaries of multiple disciplines and practices while engaging with women’s experiences of the nuptial chamber. As an object this video art can be showcased as a standalone experiment, as well as part of other installations. Ranjini wishes to mount this video as the central piece of a video installation tentatively titled Maniyara (nuptial chamber). She will work on the installation after the grant period.

The outcome of the project will be a 15-20 minute long experimental video titled ‘Daughters of Scheherazade’. Rush footage, production stills, art works, interviews generated as part of the project and media reports will be deposited as deliverables. The timeline and budget seems appropriate for the project of this duration. She will acknowledge IFA’s support while creating the video installation.