For the production of Bishar Blues, a film on the fakirs of Bengal, examining their music and their deeply spiritual everyday life as a living practice of radical syncretism. Bishar, the deviant branch of Islam practised largely by the lower castes, does not sacralise the Shariat, and its history in Bengal is replete with the assimilation of Buddhist, Tantric and Vaishnavite traditions and practices. In a context where Islam is increasingly under attack from different quarters, the film seeks to open up a crucial debate on secularism.
For the making of a film exploring the cultural history of Tibetan Buddhism in Sikkim through the sacred dance theatre of Chham. The film will examine this ritual dance as it shapes and is shaped by its religious and cultural contexts, as well as the mutations in its traditional meanings through modernity and education. Titled The Listener’s Tale, the film seeks to be a witness to the contradictions and counter-forces that sustain this ancient art practice, the plurality of meanings it generates, and the active dialogue between the consciousness of the performers of Chham and its spectators.
For the publication of a book that documents the history of print advertising in the Bengali language, analysing its various forms and modes, and the media through which it was displayed and printed. The book will also catalogue commercial artists and their contribution to text and visual, and the impact of advertising on the material culture of Bengali households and patterns of consumption. In addition, a visual archive of over 3,000 documents will be made available on the Internet to trigger further research in the area.
For conducting theme-based museum education workshops for junior- and middle-school children in eight schools in Kolkata with a view to integrating museum visits with the teaching of history in the classroom. Following preparatory research in the Indian Museum, Kolkata, educational packages and multimedia presentations will be developed as workshop aids.
For the making of a non-fiction film based on the Bengali text Hutom Pyanchar Naksa. The film seeks to use the text––which documents the excesses, decadence and cultural richness of the nineteenth century Bengali bhadralok––as an entry point to explore the silences in the narratives of colonialism and modernity. Envisaged as a dialogue between past and present, the film will involve extensive documentation and interpretation of public life in contemporary Kolkata and of various subaltern art forms like khisti, kheud, charak and sang, revisiting places and practices mentioned in the text.
For a series of workshops by an architect for middle-school children in three schools in Kolkata towards creating awareness about built heritage, especially in relation to the history and culture of the city. Educational packages will be developed to aid the workshops and site visits.
For researching and documenting the repertoire of biraha (songs of separation) in the folk music of Bengal, towards a musical travelogue in Bengali and English. The project, to be carried out by a contemporary songwriter and performer, will yield an archive of songs and interviews.
For continued collaboration among a painter/puppeteer, a sculptor/puppeteer and a shoe designer/woodworker towards developing full-fledged productions in puppet theatre. The grant will also give shape to the new techniques and styles of presentation that have evolved out of the exploratory phase.