Jagan Shah

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

Jagan Shah is an independent architect, writer and filmmaker based in Delhi, India. He holds a professional Bachelor's degree in architecture from the School of Planning & Architecture, Delhi, a Master's in the Architectural History, Theory and Criticism (HTC) from the University of Cincinnati, and an M.Phil in HTC from Columbia University, New York.

With this grant, Jagan Shah attempted to tell the IPTA story. To prepare himself for this task he built a comprehensive collection of visual and print materials on IPTA. He also interviewed artists and institutional representatives to glean historically significant facts regarding the organisation, and conducted archival research to weave his story together.

Jagan acknowledged that a full, complete and exhaustive story of IPTA can never be told, primarily because many key protagonists are no longer alive to tell the tale. Nevertheless he was convinced that the attempt to create a comprehensive IPTA archive is both meaningful and relevant, for two reasons: First, “The story of IPTA is a window through which we see a formative phase of modern society in India and a vital period of resistance to the commercialised modes of cultural production that dominate our present.” Second, in IPTA’s history we begin to see some of the most dramatic manifestations of the tensions and dialectic between the individual and the collective.

Over a period of one year, Jagan had “archeologically reconstructed the story of IPTA from a collection of diverse and scattered details: recollections and memories, citations and references, reviews and descriptions, play scripts, songs and lyrics, photographs, banners, posters, drawings, prints, recordings and interviews.” This, in turn, fed into a probable script for a documentary film. According to him, the device of a film script was, at any rate, an enabling heuristic in his attempt to construct an archive.

Today IPTA leads an attenuated existence in Indian culture, observes Jagan, and the few cells that have survived are either overwhelmed by the Indian people’s lack of interest in revolutionary ideas or simply marginalised because of the questionable calibre of their work. In seeking to chronicle IPTA’s career, Jagan hoped to engage in a critical re-thinking of basic categories in this field and contribute to a fuller understanding of a significant cultural movement in independent India.