Tushar Madhav

Arts Research

Grant Period: One year and six months

Tushar Madhav is a documentary filmmaker based in Mumbai. He studied filmmaking at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. His first film Soz – A Ballad of Maladies won the 64th National Film Award of India for the Best Debut Film among other notable mentions such as Ram Bahadur Trophy for the Best Film at the 11th Film South Asia Kathmandu and Best Documentary at 10th IDSFF Kerala.

This grant will enable Tushar to undertake research for a documentary film on the artistic legacy of the famous Gond Pradhan artist Jangarh Singh Shyam. He will critically study the artistic evolution that occurred in Bhopal during the 1980s with the discovery of Jangarh’s artistic genius at Bharat Bhawan, India’s first institution to have pegged ‘modern’ and ‘tribal’ art at the same heights of respect. Jangarh’s inventive visual art marked a significant moment in the Gond artistic evolution, leaving behind the traditional musical practices towards a modern urban tradition of visual arts practice. Through an art- historical inquiry into the genesis and propagation of this modern tradition that occurred for a community as well as a city, Tushar will study the ‘urban’ fetish for ‘tribal’ as Bhopal continues to subsume a subaltern tribal identity into its cultural landscape.

By following the works of contemporary Gond visual artists and reflecting upon Jangarh’s legacy, Tushar will look into the creative aspirations of those artists whose work problematises the normative definitions of ‘tribal’ vis-à-vis the ‘modern’. He will analyse the interrelationship of indigenous artists and their practices in the city reflecting on the contribution of the city to their art and the impact of their art on the city that fetishises and incorporates a tribal identity into its cultural fabric. He will also delve into the process of artistic evolution by embarking on a journey to locate the roots and remnants of the musical practices that were prevalent in the Gond community before Jangarh invented a new artistic expression for them. Tushar will interview the few remaining music practitioners of the community in order to examine the process of evolution – the birth of a new art form and the demise of an old one.

Tushar will also inquire into the legacy of Jangarh Singh Shyam. What brings an artist to such reverence and worship that those who practice the art form he invented recount his legend almost as if it were folklore? How did the legacy of Jangarh’s innovation and Jagdish Swaminathan’s vision, which believed in treating indigenous arts practices as art and not ‘tribal’ art, indeed turned into folklore? What remains of an artist who turns into a legacy – that which is today co-opted by not only contemporary artists who followed his footsteps in both imitation and spirit but also by the city that propagated his artistic invention as an artistic occupation for several other indigenous communities of India? Does this legacy foster the original vision of the artist and the roots of his creative germination or is imitation taken as an easier root to inspiration? These are some of the critical questions Tushar will seek answers for through this project.

In 2015-16, we supported Roma Chatterji to look into the ways in which modern forms of storytelling such as animation and graphic novel and their traditional counterparts in the folk and tribal arts - are turning to each other for new modes of expression, subjects and audiences to expand their practices. The practices of artists of the Gond Pradhan community were one of the focus areas for her project. Departing from the formalistic art historical approaches, these two projects through critical methodological frameworks shed new light on contemporary artistic practices and the concern that the Gond artists are dealing with.

The decision to support this project is embedded in our programmatic mandate for supporting practice-oriented research that challenges the conventional definitions of what constitutes research in the arts. The outcome of this project will be audiovisual documentation of interviews with the artists and experts, a short video and working drafts for the script for the documentary film. The Grantee’s deliverables to IFA with the final reports will be the audiovisual documentation, video and working drafts of the script. The budget is commensurate with the proposal.

This grant is made possible with support from Titan Company Limited.