Kamal Swaroop

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over three months

Filmmaker Kamal Swaroop has been thinking about the father of Indian Cinema, Dada Sahib Phalke, for almost two decades now. His teaching, workshops, short films and documentaries over the years have in different ways been informed by his fascination for Phalke. Swaroop believes the latter was the first and perhaps only Indian filmmaker to effectively combine all the industrial arts in the making of cinema. Kamal’s long-time dream of making a full-length feature on Phalke has remained unfulfilled, however, and this grant will in some measure contribute towards realising this ambition. Kamal wishes to get students of creative writing, filmmaking and design involved in the creation of a storyboard on Phalke’s life, which will in turn form the basis of a feature film on Phalke, titled ‘Bees Raniyon ka Bioscope’. This storyboard or graphic narrative will not just trace biographical details but also chart the coming together of an industrial imagination and individual genius that Phalke exemplified. Kamal is keen to explore what he calls ‘the industrial mode of production’ which Phalke, with his training in painting, photography, printing and magic, brought to bear on his films; a mode which has largely been left unexplored in Indian cinema. s

There are two concerns that animate this project. One, is Kamal’s interest in locating the project in the art school, by which he means schools that teach filmmaking, visual art and design. Kamal has taught in institutions like the FTII and NID, and is concerned about how students of these industrial arts remain insulated from each other’s disciplines. Kamal intends to address this concern by adopting a sequential process whereby stories on the life and work of Phalke are first generated by writers in the different cities associated with him. Following which, these stories are presented to students in a film school who create a screenplay based on them. Finally, students of graphic design create a storyboard based on the screenplay. Kamal’s second overarching concern is the correspondence he sees between Phalke’s cinematic vision and its roots in a mechanised world, and the creative possibilities offered by the digital technologies of today. In a curious way, the early 20th-century Phalke can best be re-imagined with the aid of the digital camera, for there is parallel between the ‘constructedness’ of the digital image and the similarly elaborate creation of images in the pre-cinema era.  The final storyboard will therefore be a digital text rather than one on paper.

Kamal needs to undertake a series of trips to identify the institutions and groups to collaborate with. This preliminary grant will underwrite the costs of this recce. During this period, apart from identifying willing partner institutions in various cities, Kamal will fix a time schedule and make course books and film study capsules for the workshops. He proposes to make seven course books for the Phalke stories, one for the screenplay, one for the storyboard and one book common to all the courses.