Rajula Shah

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over eight months

Rajula Shah has been producing and directing short films and documentaries for over a decade. A graduate of FTII, Pune, her films often blur the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction as well as cross the disciplinary limits of forms. She has been experimenting with film, video essay, photography, and digital media. She writes on cinema and teaches at FTII. Her films have been widely shown and critically acclaimed at home and abroad. Her film, Beyond the Wheels, was supported by IFA under the Arts Research and Documentation programme in 2003-04.

This project traces the journey of the Warkaris of Maharshtra to Pandharpur. She describes in her proposal, “It seeks to study the intimate philosophical and existential connection between ‘poetry’ and the ‘everyday’ as reflected in the people remembering, reciting, and living by it. I find myself walking with the Warkaris in the Ashadhi/Monsoon pilgrimage to Pandharpur. For most of them, it is only a stopover. Every year Warkaris take this journey with the poetry of Tukaram, Jnaneshwar, Janabai, Kanhopatra, and other poets as their compass.” Although the journey is religious in nature, poetry and rebellion form its cultural framework. 

Rajula has been documenting the journey for some time now. With the grant funds she is going to finish the shooting and post production of it. As it can be understood from the scale of the project, the footage gathered so far is going to take a considerable amount of time and resources to consolidate. But she is not planning to make this into a straightforward film. She is planning to chart the journey of the Warkaris on a digital map and link short video clips with it, so that every spectator can create their own narrative and chart their own ways to experience the journey by selecting one set of clips. She calls this “expanded cinema” in which she is aiming to “explore ways of connecting the ancient practice of healing through storytelling to the most popular technology of today.” She will collaborate with web developers/programmers and graphic designers for design and navigation strategies. Each viewer who experiences this will have his/her own account of the journey that is different in duration and content. This allows for interactivity as well as breaking the idea of a linear narrative. According to her, the journey itself is not linear. In the constant movement, there is always a sense of the present. Nothing is permanent and everyone has a very different sense of a narrative through the journey. There are also, political connotations attached to the journey. The congregation of the ambiguous mass of people driven by revolutionary poetry brings a sense of threat to the establishment. Her project reflects this reality.

Rajula wishes to show it to the pilgrims at various locations, as well as exhibit it in art galleries. The funding will primarily help her finish the project and put it up on the web. This will be the last project funded under the Extending Arts Practice programme.