For the theatrical adaptation of a twenty four-line Bengali poem, which is based on the Mughal emperor Babur’s prayer for the revival of his sick son and the poet’s own grief over his daughter’s illness, and makes a strong statement against the organised killing of the young, war, terrorism and genocide. The production—imagined as a montage interweaving events from different times and places—will make innovative use of lighting, space design, character movement and a chorus.
For the dissemination of Bishar Blues, a film on music and deeply spiritual everyday life of the fakirs of Bengal. The project will use the film to pen a dialogue between the misunderstood and mistrusted fakirs and the larger community in rural West Bengal, and stimulate discussion on marginal cultures through a seminar/screening in Kolkata.
For the writing of a book in Bengali on the history of Jatra (1900-2006) with a particular focus on the performance of Jatra in non-metropolitan Bengal, and the digitisation of play scripts, photographs, interviews and publicity materials. Over the medium term, the objective is to mount an exhibition with the digitised materials to generate public awareness about the history and popularity of Jatra in Bengal.
For research and documentation leading to a sound and oral history archive on the fakirs of Bengal and an ethno-musicological travelogue in Bengali focusing on the life of the fakirs and their music. The project is expected to contribute to the study of oral cultures and popular religion, and generate a critical discourse on the radical syncretism practiced by a minority community.
For the innovative dissemination of an archive of recordings, photographs, footage and books relating to biraha (songs of separation). Ten musical camps will be organised in rural West Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh, apart from presentations/performances in cities. The camps will give different communities of musicians wider exposure to the songs from their region as well as similar and related songs from other regions.
For the development and staging of three theatre performances that draw on accessible images and texts relating to the history of Naxalite movement. The performances will be seen mainly via live video in an effort to replicate our fragmentary understanding of this movement. Each of the three pieces will be performed on ten occasions and audience responses will be incorporated into subsequent performances.
For research and writing that explores the relationship between the language of contemporary Bengali poetry (1990-2007) and the emergence of a new, urban middle class. The project will engage with the role of television, the Internet and mobile phones, among other things, in transforming the notion of a poetic language. It will lead to a series of essays that is expected to introduce new ways of reading and new tools of analysis into literary studies in Bengali.
For research towards two novels––in Bengali and English––on the journey of a refugee colony to urbanity in post-partition Calcutta. Envisaged as a border-crossing genre, the proposed novels will explore the interface between ethnography, history, memoir and fiction. Dwelling on the texture of the ordinary and familial history to construct an archive of pain, anguish and hope, the novels are expected to challenge nostalgic accounts of the afterlife of the Bengal partition.
For the production of Bishar Blues, a film on the fakirs of Bengal, examining their music and their deeply spiritual everyday life as a living practice of radical syncretism. Bishar, the deviant branch of Islam practised largely by the lower castes, does not sacralise the Shariat, and its history in Bengal is replete with the assimilation of Buddhist, Tantric and Vaishnavite traditions and practices. In a context where Islam is increasingly under attack from different quarters, the film seeks to open up a crucial debate on secularism.
For the making of a film exploring the cultural history of Tibetan Buddhism in Sikkim through the sacred dance theatre of Chham. The film will examine this ritual dance as it shapes and is shaped by its religious and cultural contexts, as well as the mutations in its traditional meanings through modernity and education. Titled The Listener’s Tale, the film seeks to be a witness to the contradictions and counter-forces that sustain this ancient art practice, the plurality of meanings it generates, and the active dialogue between the consciousness of the performers of Chham and its spectators.