Kamal Swaroop

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over ten months

Filmmaker Kamal Swaroop earlier received a three-month seed grant from IFA to research the possibility of holding a series of interdisciplinary workshops on the life and work of the pioneering filmmaker, Dada Sahib Phalke, with the eventual aim of producing a storyboard that could become the basis of a feature film on Phalke. The seed grant enabled Kamal to identify the institutional partners who will host the workshops. IFA has now made him a larger grant to conduct the workshops in the cities and towns in western India associated with Phalke. Independent artists’ collectives, film clubs, private schools of art and craft as well as established institutions like the M.S. University, Baroda, FTII and the Industrial Design Centre at IIT, Mumbai are partners in this project. The project will travel through Nasik, Baroda, Kolhapur, Pune and Mumbai.

The first batch of workshops will lead to the creation of a series of narratives either directly related to Phalke or inspired by material pertaining to the cultural context in which Phalke made his films. These narratives will be generated by five different batches of students in five cities. Kamal had earlier wished to locate these writing workshops in the literature departments of universities. Not being able to sufficiently interest these departments, he decided to drop the idea. The narrative workshops are now located in a variety of settings and involve people from varied backgrounds. This will help Kamal to draw attention to Phalke’s uniquely interdisciplinary sensibility, to encourage the idea that filmmaking must draw on many forms and genres, and to get students of visual arts/film/design/literature to think beyond narrow academic boundaries.

FTII will host the screenplay-writing workshop. Here again, Kamal is not limiting the workshop to students specialising in screenplay-writing but keeping it open to students from other streams like direction or editing. The storyboard workshop will be located at the Industrial Design Centre of IIT, Mumbai, which is also an interesting and unusual location for a workshop concerned with cinema. While Kamal had earlier committed to producing course books on Phalke and his context for each of these workshops, he later realised, given the many-limbed quality of his material, that it would make much more sense to put it up on a website. He describes this site, which is already up and running, as ‘community-run’ in the sense that it will be managed by some of the people participating in the workshops. As and when new material is generated through the workshops it will be uploaded onto the site. In this way, Kamal can provide a broad overview on Phalke and on the subject that is the focus of a particular workshop module and then leave the student to research the subject in more detail through the website if s/he so wishes.

Kamal intends to take his students to visit the actual sites associated with Phalke’s films as well as the homes of people who share an association with the filmmaker. As the work gets underway, it will become important to identify the best possible ways in which to disseminate the separate outcomes of the workshops.