Paromita Vohra

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

This IFA Arts Research and Documentation grant supports Paromita Vohra, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and writer, to research the evolution of the Indian documentary film from the 1920s to the present. The study will look at how different forms of documentary filmmaking have taken root and become dominant at particular moments in history and survey the central figures and crucial phases in its development.

Telling Truths, the working title of Paromita’s book, will explore a) the impact of technology on the documentary filmmaking process and the filmmaker’s response to it; b) the relationship between politics, political theories and documentary film; c) the significance of documentaries in creating communities and enabling dialogues between them; d) the correlation between funding, censorship, audience and the formation of an independent documentary film circuit; e) the filmmaker’s construction of the ‘real’ and the viewer’s perception of ‘reality’ in documentary films; and f) the role of documentary films in creating parallel historical narratives of democracy.

Paromita will interview a range of people involved in documentary filmmaking. Some of these interviews will take place as conversations between two filmmakers and Paromita will be an observer. Since she aims to delineate connections in practice between contemporary filmmakers and those working in different periods and locations, this method of witnessing a dialogue between two practitioners will be revealing.

Paromita will undertake archival research to locate older accounts and descriptions of documentary film in the mainstream newspapers and special interest journals, especially those from the 1960s and 1970s. In order to map the decision-making process of state funded documentaries, she will access the internal documents and correspondence at Films Division.

The proposed outcome of the project is a publishable manuscript. In addition, Paromita will write two supplementary essays that will be presented at various seminars during the course of her research.