Pure Chutney

Directed by Sanjeev Chatterjee
1998. 42min.

Pure Chutney is an exploration of the delicious – and even difficult – mix of Trinidadian-Indian culture. The film takes up as its theme the undeniable hybridity of postcolonial societies, and celebrates in some measure the events and accidents of history that constitute the Indian diaspora. This video portrays interactions with svarious Trinidadian-Indians, and takes as its point of departure their reflections on what someone in the film calls “our preoccupation with India”. The camera and the narrative take the point of view of a U.S.-based Indian writer and photographer traveling in Trinidad. This video-essay appears at a critical time: in India, where right-wing appeals to religious purity are signaling a period of grave crisis for assorted minorities and women; and in the West, where the growing presence of a diasporic Indian population in, for example, the U.S., Canada and the U.K. calls for a sophisticated and complex engagement with the question of Indian identities and difference.

Puja: Expressions of Hindu Devotion

By Smithsonian Institute
29 min., 1996

Puja: Expressions of Hindu Devotion introduces viewers to one of the basic elements of Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion. In the Puja, Hindus honor gods and goddesses through rituals focusing on objects – whether an elaborate sculpture of the deity or just a stone – that are believed to be filled with the divine beings spirit. Viewers will hear American Hindus discussing a Puja and what it means to them and will watch as devotees worship deities and offer food, water and flowers, seeking to make a spiritual connection with the gods.

This tape includes three video segments, opening with a narration and open captioned version. The second segment presents a woman worshiping a household shrine, while the third segment shows people conducting Puja at an outdoor shrine to the goddess Chandi in the Puri district of Orissa, India.

A Passage to India

By David Lean
164 min., 1984

This breathtaking film based on E.M. Forster’s classic novel is an emotional and deeply personal story of love and class struggle in 1928 India. Adela Quested (Judy Davis) travels to India to visit her fiancé, who is in the city magistrate of Chandrapore. She is accompanied on the adventure by his mother Mrs. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft, who received the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress, 1984), an elderly woman who is appalled at the treatment of the Indians by the British who rule and occupy Chandrapore. Both women befriend a young Indian man, Dr. Aziz (Victor Banderjee), who—over-stepping the accepted boundaries between the classes—invites the women on a picnic excursion to the Marabar caves. In a strange turn of events, the young doctor is accused of attempting to rape Miss Quested. What actually did happen in the Marabar caves is the central riddle of this lush, engrossing film.

Partition

By Ken Mc Mullen
78 min.

Based on Urdu writer’s Saadat Hussan Manto’s story about the partition of India and Pakistan. McMullen’s film focuses on the historical footnote that inmates of lunatic asylums, like prisoners were transferred to Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistan asylums were sent to India. McMullen and co-writer Tariq Ali’s adaptation is ambitious; the asylum becomes a reverse mirror for the seeming order of the political order, and the same actors, for emphasis play both the lunatics and the rulers.

Pakistan: Between Chaitralis and Pathans

51 min

Situated in western Asia, Pakistan occupies a region of political and economic tension. This program looks at Pakistan’s complex relations with Iran, India, and the United States and the contributions of its multicultural population. The influences of Punjabi and Pathan, Sindhi and Baluchi, and Ismaili and Buddhist are all captured, set against the background of life both in cities and in rural communities. The region’s heritage as the seat of the Indus Valley civilization is also explored.

No More Tears Sister: Anatomy of Hope & Betrayal

Directed by Helene Klodawsky
DVD (2004) 78 min

This provocative film explores the price of truth in times of war. Set during the violent ethnic conflict that has enveloped Sri Lanka over decades, the documentary recreates the courageous and vibrant life of renowned human rights activist Dr. Rajani Thiranagama. Mother, anatomy professor, author and symbol of hope, Rajani was assassinated at the age of thirty-five.

New Empire

Directed by Kurush Canteenwala
35 min

New Empire is a visually impressionistic, non-fiction film that attempts to chronicle a personal encounter with neo-colonialism and the accompanying loss of away of urban being. The encounter is set around the memory of an Irani restaurant in Bombay, “New Empire Restaurant and Bakery.” The restaurant is now a McDonald’s outlet. This films is constructed through images employing the different textural qualities of both Super 8 and 16 mm film. A formal simplicity is the pronounced governing aesthetic and is indicative of the personal nature of the document, and as a resistance to acceptable standards of marketable imagery.

New Empire Restaurant was located directly opposite victoria Terminus or C.S.T Station, which is frequently viewed (historically, architecturally and metaphorically) as the emblem of colonization, modernity and also conversely antiquity in Bombay. Irani restaurants themselves have been the spaces that have stood for the heterogeneous and democratic ethos that used to exemplify the popular social charater of Bombay, although they too are constructions from a previous encounter with imperialism.

The audio narrative is that of a group of friends talking about the changes in Bombay’s social spaces, as experienced by them. These conversations occur in the intimacy of the Irani’s public space, and were recorded in Irani restaurants where the filmmaker and his friends would meet. The idiom in which the encounter is recalled is local and non-formal. The temporality of the medium is employed to imagine a space, and a relationship that narrators, and the filmmaker had to time, within that space. The film engages broadly with the complex changes occurring in an urban landscape, post-globalization, but seeks to explore them from a personal point of view. It is also simply, like an evening spent at New Empire.

Nee Engey ‘Where Are You’

INDIA / 2003
Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, other languages of India 153 min
Director, R.V. Ramani

This video can be used for classroom use only.
We cannot lend this video for any other purposes. This film is distributed by Magic Lantern Foundation: www.magiclanternfoundation.org

In search of people who once staged shadow plays across South India, we find that the craft survives and the songs live on. However, now performers dance to film soundtracks, the main business shifts to selling accessories and modern skits are added to the Ramayana shadow puppets. But still the thrill when the light comes on behind the white cloth remains unchanged. While there are many amusing anecdotes, such as the time puppeteers were so hungry they ate the leather dolls, the real joy is the encounter between the directors own free-spirited camerawork and the shadow players.

[Director’s Statement] I consider shadow puppeteers to be the original filmmakers who created moving images on the screen. Before the advent of cinema and television, shadow puppet theater was prevalent and extremely popular for many centuries in India. Puppeteers led a nomadic life, traveling, camping, setting up screens, and performing the story of Ramayana, adapting local languages and flavors. Today there are only a few puppeteers still practicing this art form. Stories and lifestyles have changed.

As a practicing documentary filmmaker, I feel one with the predicament of the puppeteers. Independent cinematic expression is getting increasingly difficult, as the medium is getting caught in the whirlpool of commercialization. The rural society of India, which at one point sustained the traditional shadow puppeteers and their performances, is now at a crossroads with changing values. Opportunities for the puppeteers to perform are diminishing. Today we find many of the traditional shadow puppet theater families shifting into other vocations.

In my search for the puppeteers, I experienced a complete sense of belonging with this community. This film with the shadow puppeteers living in South India is a journey in search of a missing link that is common to all communities, cultures, traditions and artistic expressions. The film is a celebration and dedication to the art of moving images, its original practitioners and community, and an impressionistic ethnography reflecting on shadow puppet theater, history, mythology, cinema and our lives.

Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night

A film by Sonali Gulati
2005, 27 minutes, DVD

Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night is a documentary on outsourcing of American jobs to India. Told from the perspective of an Indian living in the U.S., the film journeys into India’s call centers, where telemarketers acquire American names and accents to service the telephone-support industry of the U.S. The film incorporates animation, live action, and archival footage to explore the complexities of globalization, capitalism, and identity.

Miss India Georgia

A film by Daniel Friedman & Sharon Grimberg
1998, 56 minutes, DVD

Miss India Georgia follows four contestants during the hectic weeks leading up to Atlanta’s annual South Asian beauty pageant. In discussions with their grandparents about arranged marriages, in quarrels with their boyfriends, and in revealing conversations with Indian and non-Indian friends, these young women disclose the complexity of their feelings about growing up in the US as children of immigrant parents. Sometimes funny and sometimes sad, the stories of these resilient teenagers teach us that each individual’s experience of “Americanization” is unique.