Pooja Kaul

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

Pooja Kaul is a young writer and filmmaker from New Delhi whose experimental style explores the boundaries between fact and fiction. Her interests lie in defining an Indian aesthetic in film, adapting the voice of a particular and ancient tradition to a modern sensibility and form.

The ‘Ragamala’ is a genre of miniature paintings that portrays stylized interpretation, or metaphors in line and color, of the ‘ragas’ - the musical modes within the classical Indian music system. Ragamalas have been painted in regions as far apart as Bundi, Bijapur and Basholi, reflecting many styles and schools, including Rajput, Deccani and Pahari.

In dealing with the ‘tradition’ of Ragamala, the project proposes to search for conceptual roots in concrete historical determinants and processes far before the paintings were actualized, and the further development of the Ragamala idea in concepts within the theories of Indian philosophy, aesthetics, poetics, and art. Most of the contemporary literature available on Ragamala being descriptive, there is dearth of analytical and interpretive works that adequately explore the sound-image relationship in context of the theoretic of Indian art. Therefore, in outlining the terrain for research, Ms. Kaul has deliberately chosen a wide territory as is germane to the Ragamala phenomenon.

Given the collaborative nature of the paintings, the research will pursue a collaborative mode in two ways. Firstly, at the stage of editorial research, by varying levels of interactions with and between musicians and painters, musicians and art historians, painters and musicologists. Secondly, at the stage of formal research for creating two 4-minute video studies to evolve strategies on the stylistics of the proposed film. This will involve intensive interaction between the musician, the static image (the paintings) and the image-maker (filmmaker).

With regard to dissemination strategies for the film, along with plans for screenings at film festivals and placing it at experimental art web sites, possibilities of making a CDROM with the same film material will be explored. Photographs shot during the course of research and making of the film will be compiled to produce short audio-visuals on specific aspects of the Ragamala tradition for varied settings, such as museums. The filmmaker also plans to compile a manuscript on process documentation that will collate various elements of study, and include a personal narrative of an 'outsider' grappling with/tackling a gamut of art forms. A Hindi translation is envisaged to share ideas with a larger community.