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India Foundation for the Arts
Newsletter Edition 34
February - April 2016
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Hello Readers!

We are back with news on the many engagements of our grantees, and details of new grants made to researchers, artists, fellows, and teachers, who continue to push the boundaries of arts practice, research and education, between February and May, 2016!

India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), in this period, made grants to diverse projects including two each under our Arts Practice, and Arts Education programmes. The latest call for proposals under our Arts Research and Arts Education programmes are now out, as well as, applications for the Archival and Museum Fellowships. Do read on to know more on the application process, grant or fellowship criteria, and the upcoming deadlines for each!

You can also be a part of our community with your presence at our events and grant showcases. We organise grant showcases, as part of our commitment towards creating spaces for dialogue on the arts, and bring the work of our grantees to different spaces, and newer audiences. If you missed out on some of these exciting happenings, this newsletter contains updates on these activities, spanning the breadth of the country.

Do read on to know more about our engagements, spread the message on our Request for Proposals, and learn more about the work currently being undertaken by our grantees.

Please do visit our website or follow us on Twitter and facebook for updates!

We hope you enjoy the contents of this newsletter.
You can write to us at with any feedback that you may have.
We would love to hear from you!

The IFA Team

Programmes Publications
Events Slant/Stance
Announcements Support Us

Arts Research (AR)

The Arts Research programme supports scholars, researchers, and practitioners to undertake research into the various histories and expressions of artistic practices in India. If you are a budding researcher, or a seasoned practitioner looking to undertake research, our Request for Proposals for the programme is now out, do apply, and spread the word!

We invite proposals across the arts and humanities, from researchers and practitioners who are interested in undertaking research projects that could investigate marginalised or relatively unexplored areas; who intend to create spaces for dialogue between theory and practice; who offer new readings/frameworks of artistic practices; and who use interdisciplinary approaches to break new conceptual ground, among other things.

IFA specifically encourages projects in Indian languages other than English, so as to contribute to discourse in particular language contexts.

For more information on the application process, requirements and more do visit our website or contact
Do Note our Deadline for Applications
Draft proposals should reach us no later than June 11, 2016
Final proposals should reach us no later than July 11, 2016

Arts Practice (AP)

It gives us immense pleasure to begin this update on the Arts Practice programme, with news of IFA supported work winning at the recently concluded Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) 2016. Sharanya Ramprakash, theatre practitioner and IFA grantee, won a META for the Best Original Script, while Prasad Cherkady won for Best Actor in the male category, for their work in the play, Akshayambara. Akshayambara explores the conflicts around tradition, gender, power, and morality inherent in the form of Yakshagana, as it imagines a reversal of roles in the popular Yakshagana plot of 'Draupadi Vastrapaharana'. The play successfully apposes male ownership and female representation, to study stereotypes, examine the nuances of class, unravel the minutiae of performance embedded in 'streevesha'/female impersonation, study conflicts engendered both on and off stage, among others.

Prakash Cherkady and Sharanya Ramprakash in Akshayambara
Photo Credit: Suresh Babu

The Arts Practice programme at IFA, in its latest incarnation seeks to push established boundaries of form and content, and charter new artistic territories through experimentation, critique, and explorations in practice. The new grants made in this period reflect this impulse:

Avik Mukhopadhyay, National-Award winning cinematographer, and his collaborator, Madhuja Mukherjee, Associate Professor of Film Studies at Jadavpur University, received a grant for a project tentatively entitled, Lubdhak – The Dog Star, an artistic interpretation of Nabarun Bhattacharya's novel Lubdhak. Lubdhak explores Bhattacharya's concern for the disenfranchised, and the abilities of the oppressed to stand up to the architects of an unjust system. Avik and Madhuja's, interpretations of this novel extend to a graphic novel, and a script, which will also underpin a feature length stop motion animation film. They are re-creating the world of Nabarun on a miniature scale, as they experiment with material, and forms, that capture the world of Lubdhak, and its hairy protagonists – dogs!

Umashankar Mantravadi, eminent sound artist, pioneering archivist, and innovator in sound technology, received a grant to aurally map two archaeological sites - Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh, and Guruvayoor Temple, Kerala. His current project deals with the field of archaeoacoustics - the study of acoustic properties of a archaeological site. Limited knowledge in the acoustics of historic sites has led to a dangerous tendency of only visual conservation in restoration,resulting in the impossibility of studying the sonic legacies of these sites. Umashankar and his team, will record the ambisonic properties of these two archaeological sites, as a pilot project, to challenge the dominant visual understanding of history of these sites, as well as study the effects of industrialisation on listening practices. The larger exercise will include recordings for five more sites to be archived on a web platform, enabling users to recreate the listening experience of those sites with any recorded sound.

Sharanya Ramprakash's project was made possible by part support from Voltas Limited.

Umashankar's grant was made possible with support from Titan Company Limited.

Arts Education (AE)

We are pleased to announce that the Request for Proposals from artists to work in government schools in Karnataka is now out! This initiative is an extension of our work with government schools under the Kali-Kalisu project, and aims to build collaborations between artists and the school.This programme has three objectives, to encourage artists to look beyond their own artistic practice, and explore the many possibilities for arts education; to create an opportunity for artists and teachers to become joint stakeholders in the school community; and to enrich curriculum, and classroom teaching through artistic interventions. We welcome proposals from artists with or without previous experience, or relevant training in arts education in government schools.

For more information on the application process, requirements and more do visit our website or contact
Do Note our Deadline for Applications
Draft proposals should reach us no later than June 03, 2016
Final proposals should reach us no later than June 30, 2016

Arts Education, one of the oldest grantmaking programmes at IFA, seeks to foster a robust environment for the arts, and arts-based teaching techniques, in government schools across Karnataka. We make grants to artists and teachers, to develop modules/classes that push boundaries of students' cognisance, create an enjoyable environment to explore subjects, and investigate their contexts in and around school, among others. This period witnessed two such grants being made to two artists:

Sahana P, a theatre artist, received support to work with eighty students, from standards eighth to tenth, of the Sardhar Patel Memorial Higher Secondary and High School in Hospet, Bangalore. Sahana seeks to sharpen the students' thinking about their contexts, and build social and self-management skills, through the medium of street theatre.

Ramesh N, a visual artist and academic, received support to engage with forty students, from the sixth and seventh grades of the Government Model Primary School, in Hesaraghatta, Bangalore. He will conduct a series of exercises in the visual arts – drawing, painting and design – and storytelling, to sensitise the students to their environment.

This was an exciting period for the programme as it also witnessed the final outcome, an exhibition, of a grant made to architect Meeta Jain, to work with the students of the Government Primary School, Sultanpet, at the foothills of Nandi Hills, Bangalore.

Light and video projections of art work by the students of the Government Primary School, Sultanpet, Karnataka

Sultanpet envelopes many histories and mythologies, played out on the dramatic geography of the surrounding green hills.The many historic elements that continue to be a part of the village landscape, such as the tracks used by Tipu's horses to navigate the hills, to an old Kalyani (water reservoir), conjure nostalgia for its namesake – Tipu Sultan. For Meeta Jain, architect and designer, the school set against a dramatic view of Tipu's Point, proved to be an interesting space, to encourage the students to think, map, and re-discover the neighbourhood of their village. Meeta and her team worked with students over six Saturdays, using simple exercises like drawing, to map their individual routes from their homes to the school, and weaving stories involving places that are familiar, but overlooked parts of the landscape. Eventually, the nearby Kalyani, which had become a place for gambling and dirt, but was also a part of the students narratives, was re-purposed as an outdoor craft room, to explore other possibilities for the space!The final exhibition, aligned with the festival of Shivratri - Irulinahabba, and involved light, and video projections of students' art works. The exhibition sought to draw the village into the Kalyani, remember it as a strong space of confluence, and imagine other purposes for the beautiful space.

These grants made under the Arts Education Programme in 2014-2015, were made possible with support from the Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore.

The Arts Education Programme for the year 2016-2017 is supported by Citi India.

Archival and Museum Fellowships

The Museum Fellowship initiative of IFA begun with the two-fold objective of providing practitioners with an opportunity to generate new, creative, and critical approaches to public engagement with collections in museums, and energising museums as spaces for dialogue, and discourse. Under this mandate, we are very happy to announce three new fellowships, one with the Gallery of Contemporary Art, Kerala Museum, Kochi, and two with the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal.

The IGRMS is an ethnographic museum established in 1977, and covers over 200 acres of land. With both indoor and outdoor galleries the museum aims at highlighting the richness, and diversity of India through its collection of over 25,000 traditional and cultural objects. Using the pool of artifacts as a starting point, and stimulus for visual experimentation and research, the fellows are encouraged to discover new meanings around given objects of heritage by exploring their political, economic, religious and social aspects, besides the cultural. These alternate ways of interpreting, describing and displaying the objects, we hope, will result in an exhibition, a series of activities such as talks, workshops and other public programmes over a time-period of ten months.
Please do note that applications for this fellowship should reach us no later than May 31, 2016.
To know more and apply, click here

The Kerala Museum, set within the lush gardens of the Madhavan Nayar Foundation in Kochi, includes a Museum of Kerala History, a Gallery of Contemporary Indian Art, the Museum Amphitheatre, and the Visual Arts Centre. The Gallery of Contemporary Indian Art houses Madhavan Nayar's private collection of over three hundred paintings, and sculptures by well-known Indian artists ranging from the late 19th century to the present.This Museum Fellowship will support a curator to explore innovative ways of animating, and re-presenting the Gallery's eclectic yet representative collection from a contemporary context.An important feature of this fellowship is the engagement with the local community: the fellow will be responsible for curating an exhibition, and presenting the collection through a series of activities such as talks, workshops, and other public programmes over a period of eight months.
Please do note that applications for this fellowship should reach us no later than May 21, 2016.
To know more and apply, click here

For more information, please contact

This was a stimulating period for our Archival and Museum Fellowships, we witnessed the opening of two exhibitions, atoot dor, an exhibition on the Banarasi brocade, and Time Upon Time: Arnold Blake in Bengal, which explores the sound recordings of Dutch ethnomusicologist, Arnold Bake. We have also announced two calls for applications under this programme, do read on to know more!

atoot dor – Unbroken Thread : The Banarasi Brocade Sari at Home and in the World, an exhibition curated by Abeer Gupta and Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan, with Dr Anamika Pathak of the Decorative Arts Department of the National Museum, opened at the National Museum, Delhi on February 25.

Opening of the exhibition atoot dor – Unbroken Thread : The Banarasi Brocade Sari at Home and in the World,
at the National Museum, New Delhi

The exhibition re-stages the museum's collection of brocade saris from Banaras, to present the sarees as both, textiles for personal adornment, and as cultural artefacts produced, circulated, and appreciated at home and around the world. With over 100 objects, this exhibit endeavours to trace the origins, evolution, and repertoire of the Banarasi brocade. It showcases a range of Banarasi saris from the collection at the National Museum, and private collections, including a red and gold Ashavali sari from Gujarat, and a 19th century Baluchari sari from Murshidabad. The displays also attempt to involve multiples illustrations of the cultural impact of the Banarasi brocade, and include a range from prints and posters from visual artist Pushpamala N, to a bidriware chair with brocade upholstery from Hyderabad. In addition, the exhibition features a large number of contemporary manifestations of the Banarasi Sari, displaying the innovations and interpretations of eminent designers like Ritu Kumar, Rahul Mishra, Ashdeen, Goodearth, Jaypore, and Asian Paints.

Time Upon Time: Arnold Blake in Bengal, an exhibition of field recordings created and curated by Moushumi Bhowmik and Sukanta Majumdar of The Travelling Archive, in collaboration with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Arts, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, opened on March 07.

Opening of the exhibition Time Upon Time: Arnold Blake in Bengal, at Santiniketan, Kolkata

Moushumi, singer and song-writer, collaborated with Sukanta, a sound recordist and sound artist, on the research project Travelling with Arnold Bake: Listening to Sounds of History in Archival Recordings, which will focus on the sound recordings made by Arnold Bake, a Dutch ethnomusicologist, during his time in Bengal from 1925 to 1934. A distinctive attempt, the exhibition employed these recordings in listening booths, in addition to constructing portraits of people, places, and histories of the music based on archival material that is both visible and invisible (soundscapes). The 'visible' included photographs, texts, and correspondence between Blake and other contemporaries, like Tagore, displayed on the walls and on scrolls of material used to partition the booths. For this exhibition, material was sourced from archives both within the country (like the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology of the American Institute of Indian Studies (ARCE), Gurgaon; Rabindra Bhavan, Shantiniketan etc), and outside the country (like the British Library, UK, and the library at Blake's alma mater in Leiden, Netherlands).

The Archival and Museum Fellowships with the Gallery of Contemporary Art, Kerala Museum, and the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya were made possible with support from the Tata Trusts.

Project 560, 2015 — Curated Arts Walks and Nenapinangaladinda: Down Memory Lane

Project 560, a city-wide found spaces festival, encourages artists to creatively engage with non-proscenium found spaces in Bangalore, re-imagine them, and bring them alive through performance. We partnered with Citi India in 2015 for the second edition of the festival, and in addition to the three day festival held in December 2015, we launched two further engagements with the city: Arts Walks and Nenapinangaladinda. Arts Walks, which are curated walks conducted by inhabitants of Namma Oru, provided insights into neighbourhoods, and their respective contributions to the arts in the city. Another key component of Project 560, 2015 is a series of talks on the arts in Bangalore, entitled Nenapinangaladinda, meaning 'a walk down memory lane' in Kannada.

We concluded our last walk from the Arts Walks series in April, 2016 with Avehi Mohan and Archit Guha, from the Centre for Public History, at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology. Avehi and Archit led a walk through M G Road, with a curated soundscape of inhabitants of the city, recalling tales of music, film and theatre from yesteryear South Parade.

At the site of the former New Empire Theatre, an important member of the thriving film circuit in Bangalore

The first event under Nenapinangaladinda was held with veteran theatre actor and singer R Paramashivan, who in his presentation, interwoven with songs and stories, reflected on Bangalore's theatre environment from 1935 up to the 1970s. Paramashivan and the musicians who accompanied him, held the audience captive at Seva Sadan, Malleswaram, as he sifted through his memories of a career spanning eighty years in Kannada theatre, music and films! His presentation moved through decades of cultural history, like a virtual flipbook, as theatre companies and the artists entered the narrative, grew, and gradually faded away, in a dynamic city under constant transformation.

Our second event, Mapping Installation Art in Bangalore: 1993 – 2003: A dialogue on five selected art projects, opened a discussion on Bangalore's artistic contribution to this field, from the beginning of the movement in the 1990s, at the Venkatappa Art Gallery. Artists including Sheela Gowda, Pushpamala N, M S Umesh, Tripura Kashyap, Raghavendra Rao, Shantamani, and C F John, with Sundar Sarukkai as moderator, enumerated their experiences, and experiments, at a time when galleries and other institutions were still largely focussing on conventional forms like sculptures and paintings. The panel discussion, followed by Tripura's recreation of a performance from Silence of Furies and Sorrow, brought alive this period in Bangalore's history. The panel discussion focussed on the context of these artistic interventions in the 1990s, and involved passionate discussions on the challenges of working with new mediums and spaces, to artistic visions and motivations, and budgetary restraints!


Nenapinangaladinda – Top (L-R): Panels displaying the projects under discussion by the artists.
Bottom (L): The artists & panellists - M S Umesh, Raghavendra Rao, Pushpamala N,
Tripura Kashyap, C F John & Sheela Gowda
Bottom (R): Tripura Kashyap recreates a performance from Silence of Furies and Sorrow

Project 560, 2015, is an IFA initiative, partnered by Citi India.

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IFA organised and participated in several events this quarter. Do visit our website for more information on the performances, readings, screenings and more of our grantees, across the country!

Between February 19 and 21, IFA organised a puppetry workshop, followed by a presentation by Pa Madhavan and Dr S Murugaboopathy on February 22, at Arul Anandar College, Madurai. Madhavan presented on his GOA-CAP Project, which explores alternative photography techniques, while Murugaboopathy spoke about his research into the Bommai or Doll culture of Tamil Nadu.

We are delighted to note that IFA-supported works, F-1/105 by theatre practitioner Mohit Takalkar of Aasakta Kalamanch, Pune, and Notes on Chai by theatre artist Jyoti Dogra, were presented at the 18th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the National School of Drama's annual theatre festival in Delhi. F-1/105 and Notes on Chai opened to packed audiences on February 06, and February 10, respectively.

IFA in collaboration with the Mahindra Sanatkada Lucknow Festival, and presented Akshayambara: A theatrical exploration of gender in Yakshagana, by Sharanya Ramprakash, on February 08, at Lucknow. Akshayambara, is an experimental play that uses both modern theatrical tools and the dance drama form of Yakshagana, to create a narrative that raises questions on female representation, and male ownership. It was also performed on February 24, at G5A, Mumbai, and March 14, at Hotel Royal Orchid, Bangalore.
Sharanya Ramprakash's project was made possible by part support from Voltas Limited.
The performances in Lucknow, and Mumbai, were supported by the South Asia Women's Fund, and the Bajaj Group, respectively.

IFA in association with Project 88, brought an evening of presentations on Art in Communities, to Mumbai, on February 23. The evening of presentations, with artists Sumona Chakravarty from the Hamdasti Collective, Kolkata, and Shaunak Mahbubani and Rahul Gudipudi from the Klatsch Collective, Bangalore, unfolded, as they took us through their artistic journeys within communities. The projects, from Bengal and Karnataka respectively, bring together distinct contexts to enable an insightful session on their artistic pursuits and community participation, in their local contexts.
The Klatsch Collective received a grant as part of Project 560, 2015, an IFA initiative, partnered by Citi India.

Announcing Project 560, 2015
Rahul Gudipudi from the Klatsch Collective presents on their project, Myself Mohan 1909, at Project 88, Mumbai

atoot dor – Unbroken Thread : The Banarasi Brocade Sari at Home and in the World, an exhibition curated by Abeer Gupta, and Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan, who received fellowships from IFA under its Archival and Museum Fellowships initiative, opened to an overwhelming response in New Delhi on February 25, and was on view till April 25.

Monkey and the Mobile, a play by theatre group Perch, supported by IFA under its Arts Practice programme, was presented at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore, from March 08 to March 13. The play, directed by Rajiv Krishnan, uses the mobile phone and technology as a theme to gauge their impact on our lives, through stories - some real, some imagined.

PERCH performs Monkey and the Mobile, at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore

We presented ज़िंदगी के नाटक, नाटकों की ज़िंदगी —- Zindagi Ke Natak, Natakon ki Zindagi, dramatised readings exploring feminist street theatre in the 1970s and 1980s by Deepti, Shanti, and Indira of the Sampurna Trust. The readings were presented at the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) reading room, on March 19, in collaboration with FICA; the readings were showcased at the Basement, with the support of Tejeshwar Singh Memorial Trust, on March 20.
Sampurna Trust received a grant, with Deepti as the Principal Investigator, under the Arts Research programme of IFA, with part support from South Asian Women's Fund.

Members of the Sampurna Trust present readings from feminist street plays of the 1970s & 80s,
at Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA), New Delhi

Screening of The Common Task, an experimental HD video film on the Mars One project, which aims to set up the first human settlement in Mars, by Pallavi Paul and Sahej Rahal, at two venues in Delhi. The Common Task was screened in collaboration with the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, on March 21, and with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA), on March 22.
Pallavi and Sahej received a grant under the Arts Practice programme of India Foundation for the Arts, with support from Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT).

IFA supported play, A Brief History of Your Hair, by Deepika Arwind, premiered on March 24 and 25, at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore. The play is deeply rooted in personal stories about hair on the one hand, and fantastical explorations of these stories on another, and draws upon historical, political and gender narratives of hair.

Promotional material featuring the cast of A Brief History of Your Hair

The performance piece, Conditions of Carriage, by contemporary dancer and choreographer, Preeti Athreya, which sought to explore the body as a functional unit, in contrast to a purely performative or aesthetic identity, was performed on March 26, at Cholamandal Artists Village, Chennai.

IFA in collaboration with the Chitnavis Centre, Nagpur organised an IFA Open House and grant presentation, on April 29, exploring the role of migrants and their tools in building Delhi, with artist - researcher Bhagwati Prasad.

We organised two MaathuKathes, meaning Conversations in Kannada, with Suresh Jayram and Hartman de Souza. Suresh read from his book, 1 Shanthi Road, which follows the journey of this artist-led gallery, and unique studio space that has been engaging with contemporary art in Bangalore, since 2002. We also explored the gritty narrative of mining in Goa, through a discussion between the author of Eat Dust - Mining and Greed in Goa, Hartman, and IFA Executive Director, Arundhati Ghosh. Eat Dust - Mining and Greed in Goa is a bitter journey that maps the vicious destruction of the ecology, and culture of the Western Ghats in Goa.

MaathuKathe – (L): Hartman de Souza and (R) Suresh Jayram

IFA launched Catalyst – Arts an Inspiration for Excellence, in November, 2015. Catalyst is a unique initiative, which brings together 8 eminent artists, who will share their experiences about their pursuit of excellence, at corporate venues. As part of this initiative, we have partnered with corporate houses, including Biocon Limited, Sasken Communication Technologies, Centum Electronics, and Titan Company Limited. The last few months have seen artists Atul Dodiya, Nandita Das, Romi Khosla, Malavika Sarukkai, and Aditi Mangaldas conduct sessions, talking with their individual journeys, in various spaces.

Aditi Mangaldas at the Sasken Communication Technologies Campus, Bangalore

If you would like to know more about this initiative, or partner with us, please contact:

Upcoming Events

We are enthusiastically looking forward to a number of upcoming events at venues across the country, with readings from feminist street plays of the 1970s and 1980s, by members of the Sampurna Trust, in Delhi; and the opening of a photography exhibition on Jatra artists by Soumya Sankar Bose, in Kolkata; or hear more about the performance art form, Doddata, with theatre practitioners Prakash Garud and his collaborator Rajani Gardu, at Ringan by Aasaktha Kalamanch, Pune.

Hope to see you at some of these events! Do sign up for our emails here, follow us on facebook or Twitter for regular updates, or simply tune into our website at:

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We invite proposals for our Arts Research and Arts Education programmes, along with, applications for the Archival and Museum Fellowship.

bird_bullet Arts Research
Call for Proposals [Deadline: July 11, 2016]

bird_bullet Arts Education
Call for Proposals from Artists to work in Government Schools, Karnataka [Deadline: May 21, 2016]

bird_bullet Archival and Museum Fellowship
Call for Applications to work with the Kerala Museum, Kochi [Deadline: May 21, 2016]
Call for Applications to work with the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal [Deadline: May 31, 2016]

Do write to the individual programme officer for any queries on the programme, application process, and more:
Arts Research:
Arts Education:
Archival and Museum Fellowship:

Do apply and spread the word!

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We have an interesting set of publications to offer which include postcards featuring our grantees' work, books and back issues of our magazine ArtConnect. You can avail of special anniversary discounts on Limited Edition collections. All the proceeds from the sale of publications go back into grantmaking.
To know more, write to

IFA POSTCARDS Set 1 Beyond the Proscenium Embroidering Futures: ArtConnect Limited Edition
Own a set today!
Suggested contribution:
Rs 200
For details, write to
Beyond the ProsceniumReimagining the Space for Performance
Edited by Anmol Vellani
176 pp., Rs 300, US $20
Click here to buy online.
Embroidering Futures:
Repurposing the Kantha

Edited by Ritu Sethi
192 pp., Rs 400, US $30
Click here to buy online.
20 years: Limited Edition - Set of 9 ArtConnect back issues
Buy Now at Rs 700 only
Click here to know more.
To buy ArtConnect, write to
Buy both and get a discount of Rs 100!
Click here to know more.

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Pallavi Paul & Sahej Rahal received a grant for an experimental HD video film on the Mars One project, that aims to set up the first human settlement in Mars. Referencing the works of Jules Verne and Franklin Story Musgrave, the video will include scientific reports, plans, charts, confessional videos, personal journals, popular cinema clips, and clips of varying audio frequencies, interspersed with interviews with future astronauts.
This grant was made possible with support from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT).

Pallavi is a visual artist, filmmaker and scholar from Delhi. After her Masters in Mass Communication from Jamia Milia Islamia, and MPhil in Arts and Aesthetics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, she is currently pursuing her PhD from the same department. Her work has been shown at venues like the Tate Modern, Edinburgh Art Festival, AV Festival, Whitechapel Gallery, Experimenta Film Festival, and the Mumbai Film Festival, amongst others.

IFA: How did you learn about/ get interested in the Mars One Project?

Pallavi Paul: I saw an advertisement for this program in the Times Of India. At first one was obviously sceptical, but once we did a little more research, we were completely taken in by the idea. Mars One is a Netherlands based company which in 2010, announced a scheme under which anyone could apply to go on a one way trip to Mars. The aim of this mission is to set up a human settlement on Mars by 2023. The training is due to start by 2018 and prospective astronauts would be trained for about 6 years in a variety of subjects including medicine, hydroponics, maintenance of space modules etcetera. This proposal attracted applications from all over the world and people from all age groups and walks of life. The program is now in its third round of selections. Also an equal number of conspiracy theories exist about the holes in this whole project, but it remains to be seen if it actually takes off in the proposed time frame.

Still from the film The Common Task by Pallavi Paul & Sahej Rahal

IFA: How did you approach the subject, what was the research process like?

Pallavi Paul: We were thinking of this in terms of a journey all along. So the research was not so much a means to find out about Mars, but about arriving at clues that would help us imagine this massive journey. In fact unpacking the possibilities of this proposition, became a kind of framework. The first step of the process was digging out application videos made by the candidates themselves. These videos were part of the application process, as two minute pitches to explain to Mars One selectors why they would make perfect astronauts for this mission. These videos in themselves are fascinating archives of many different kinds of performances and strategies of self expression. We found them scattered all over the internet. Some were uploaded by the applicants on popular sites like vimeo and youtube, while some others were on the individual social media pages of these people. It was after this that we started to travel to several applicants and hearing from them their versions of this journey. The film took shape from these conversations. Offsetting this was also the material from ISRO & NASA, where the question of "scientific truth" is often at the centre of things. It was interesting to see these two systems collide, during the research and making the film.

IFA: Why did you decide to make a film, what about the medium excited you?

Pallavi Paul: The absence of any image, or any verifiable accounts of Mars or rather life on Mars became a provocation to make this film. It was this whole question of how do you make a film about something that cannot be filmed. Visual absence as cinematic material. Also then one had to think about sound, our soundtrack couldn't really have any earth sounds of birds, traffic, chatter – so the music track is a synthesis of wind sounds recorded in all kinds of places. These were some interesting set of ideas to work with both technically and conceptually. We shot the film in variety of locations like in the forests of Squamish BC in Canada (which also happens to the place where The Revenant was shot!), A mines museum in Canada, Sriharikota, Mumbai, Pushpa Gujral Science City in Punjab, New Delhi etcetera. All these locations brought their own textures to the film. It was particularly hilarious to see the reactions of people in Canada while we were shooting a sequence with Sahej dressed as a possible alien in a museum. They ranged from horror to shock to disbelief.

IFA: How did the team for the film come together, what were the challenges you faced as a team?

Pallavi Paul: Sahej and I are both quite hands on as practitioners, and because the structure of the film needed to evolve as we were shooting editing, the technical team was pretty much the both of us.

IFA: What was the most intriguing/exciting part of this project for you?

Pallavi Paul: Meeting prospective astronauts of course! These are some incredible minds with immense imagination. I suspect I might have undergone a shift in perspective vis a vis ideas about life, finitiness, fear of loss etcetera. CV Kamesh, one of the protagonist from the film for instance, has had an imaginary Martian friend called Xenthalpo. Very interestingly for an eleven year old Kamesh (who is now 53) Xenthalpo did not look any different from a human being. He says this was because he had never been shown a picture of a Martian. So all along he grew up imagining a form of alien life, that was not outwardly identifiable as distinct or different from him, and also with whom he had an intimate relationship. Now this becomes such a powerful allegory to think about the ideas of otherness, that one has encountered in conventional literature and cinema about 'aliens'.

Still from the film The Common Task by Pallavi Paul & Sahej Rahal

IFA: Anything else you would like to add on your project?

Pallavi Paul: I think the fact that we chose to tell these stories through a combination of personal archives, public records, scientific data – helped one think about the idea of information itself and its different regimes and narratives. Once more and more information started finding its way into the script, rather than becoming more explanatory, the film started becoming lyrically chaotic. So we used home videos shot by the families of these applicants in the early 90s like allegories of the present and the future. So all images in the film are like mini time capsules in a way. I imagine someone watching this film after 50 years, when space travel could become fairly common place and thinking – these guys had such hairy brained ideas about Mars.

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