Pankaj Rishi Kumar

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

This grant will go towards the completion of Kumar Talkies, a documentary film highlighting the relationship between the crisis facing the small town of Kalpi in Uttar Pradesh and the decline of its oldest surviving cinema theatre. The film will explore the impact of the products of the Bombay film industry and popular culture on the town’s social and economic life, collective imagination, and identity.

Pankaj Rishi Kumar’s interest in Kalpi and Kumar Talkies is both personal and professional, if it is possible in his case to separate the two. It was his father, Rishi Kumar, who founded Kumar Talkies in 1969, and Pankaj Rishi Kumar uses the documentary mould to recreate the ambience of this small town and the lives of its inhabitants in relation to Kumar Talkies which serves as both a metaphor and a point of reference. In fact, ‘film’, with all its varied connotations, will function as the central motif of the documentary. Apart from the background presence of the film theatre, the reactions of local inhabitants to a film that has them as subjects, footage from old and new Hindi films, archival visual material, and references to Kalpi’s bazaar photography will also be woven into the film’s narrative.

This grant will enable him to complete work on Kumar Talkies, which has already received partial funding from the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival, Rotterdam, and Soumitra Ranade Productions, Mumbai. Jagan Shah, who is a graduate of the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, will serve as assistant director on this project, while Praveen Swami, special correspondent for Frontline, will function as consultant for.

While IFA’s grant would go towards the completion of the Kumar Talkies, thought would be given to the possibility of making a subsequent grant to enable Pankaj Rishi Kumar to put together a book or monograph on the film and the issues it had raised. Two alternative projects, which the film’s earnings might eventually support, are a study of the craft of handmade paper in Kalpi, or a larger documentary series on traditional itinerant artists.