Muktmela; An interactive Theatrical Experience

14 12 2009

“We of the middle class believe that we are free, but in reality we have to suffer the indignities of bondage and restriction quite often.”

Badal Sircar

Muktamela, a direct theatrical experience conceptualised by Badal Sircar (arguably the pioneer of the third theatre in India), is engineered towards reminding the spectators of these indignities of life. The idea is to conjure up a situation with elements which would shock and also create a space for engagement with the trappings of various aspects of contemporary life. The ropes that bind us are several ranging from the media, to images of terror, surveillance, censorship, predatory communities, space constraints, violence and conflict etc. Through characters and simulated situations directed towards an active spectator, we attempt to create a thought provoking arena where we can interrogate the contemporary prison we find ourselves in.

Venue: Room No.5

Time: 2p.m to

Date: 19th December 2009.


Magic by Ajinkya Shenava

14 12 2009

Reality. Nothing I can describe with my weapons of embellishment, distortion and elevated prose could ever burn its imprint on you and erase the original. It’s like an orgasm. The ecstasy of vision often assaults the drudgery of thought. And when thought is completely decimated. When all feeling is experiential. There is that moment of silence…what Linklater might have called the ‘holy moment’….

….But again this is an endeavour to trace the trajectory of a reality “out there” and the failure of an attempt like this has been prophesised long before it began. But Alas, ‘words are all I have to play with’…

The tremendous insignificance of my task is apparent. I am merely an understudy lost in a crowd of vacillating Hamlets. Hard-wiring reality is an uneasy task for the best. A lot of fun but still Herculean. Like setting out on a leaky boat to an indiscernible destination. Looking for the golden fleece protected by a cluster of bewitching, scantily clad maidens. The distractions and illusions are several. Maybe the trick is to stop looking and forget about the fleece.  Maybe the discovery lies in the ignorance, in the surprise of confronting the sacred……

‘Life is a matter of a miracle that is collected over time by moments, flabbergasted to be in each other’s presence.’

Indeed the surprising dexterity with which reality weaves itself often eludes me. I seldom see the inscape of a leaf slowly stooping with the weight of a dewdrop like a note too heavy for a morning raag, dropped but not unnoticed. I do not want to diminish the beauty of a moment by staining it with meaningless shringaar. It is for you to see. Its existence is unarguable.

The Video Camera is testimony to that.

My hypothesis is highly presumptuous. How can a construction – a machine, a purveyor of artifice – be a mediator of the real. The sacred. It is not the mechanism itself but the role it plays in this comedy of perception.

The reek of distortion is overwhelming. With documentary the question becomes even more political. Who decides what is socially progressive and relevant? What is your authority for didacticism? In fact who says the fly-on-the wall sees things objectively? And why do you assume that the auteur has not fallen into the pickle he stirs and the film is not merely an attempt to assuage conscience while he dislodges himself from it?

In fact the issue of a “message” is so controversial and overrated that it might even reach that point of peril where the notion of death of the author ceases to be metaphorical.

But I’m jumping the gun here. Ideology preempts seeing. And it is the seeing that I am interested in.

The camera is magical. Like a wand. When you see through it you are creating and at the same time marking yourself out as an agent of mimesis. Moreover you are borrowing heavily from a text that lets you be witness to its unfolding. You are creatively plagiarizing from an impeccable auteur. Creating intertextualities within time and space. You might be a speck in a pantheon of thousands. But you’re still a trailblazer. Your claim to fame lies not in the novelty of your outlook but the meaning you find in the everyday. The dislodging of the unnatural, the magical from the mundane. Moreover, the hope that this construction will arouse an elevated sensitivity in yourself and the watcher remains.

Indeed, the delight that surfaces from a shot (however inadequate) of a crow flying off a railing, or a bus screaming across the still frame of an illuminated shrine, or out of focus cars gradually dissolving into sharpness from between the leaves of a plant outruns metaphor. My joy like the apocryphal child opening his presents might be momentary. It might even be residual; a distillation of centuries of obsession with the unnatural and the inability to digest a reality that transcends our blinkered gaze.

But the illusion is fulfilling, More importantly, the challenge of making meaning out of footage is highly engaging. Even the artifice beckons, for a collection of shots can mean anything as Kuleshov showed us decades ago.

The technology might be befuddling but it is what it is used for and how it is udes that makes it less intimidating. Like an old fashioned Bajaj scooter with sidecar, the strartup and handling might be a problem but once it starts it is makhan, my friend, makhan.

‘We are all co-authors of this dancing exuberance where even our inabilities are having a roast.’

– From Waking Life

Sub-themes for Frames of Reference 2009

8 12 2009


Much of the first decade of the twenty-first century has been spent coming to terms with the new global phenomenon of ‘terrorism’ and subsequently, the war against it. The facts of the matter aside, the images generated in the media and their percolation/proliferation down to the popular imagination is fraught with the politics of representation and necessitates critical interrogation. Most media narratives of terror attacks have created monsters of communities, obfuscating the finer nuances involved. However, some sensitive and committed journalism has also revealed media as a space for critical thinking and analysis. The role of the media in civil society is an important area of investigation and we wish to ponder over it from multiple perspectives.

North East

The problem with media representation of the North East is two-fold. Firstly, the singular most important impulse of popular media to reduce complexities to a bare minimum of de contextualized facts has impeded possibilities of representing dissent. The vocabulary for the movements for autonomy in the North East being greatly limited, the issue has been reduced to dichotomies of the state and those against it. Secondly, stories from the North East are also subjected to severe marginalization and thus, fail to register on the collective ‘national’ psyche. This seminar is an attempt to unravel the various layers involved in media narratives from the region and also to explore the socio-cultural and political ramifications of these narratives.


The events of the last few months have revealed an urgency with regards the ‘Naxalism menace’, the Prime Minister calling it the ‘greatest internal security threat to our country’ and the logistics of ‘Operation GreenHunt’ well under their way. Mainstream media has been involved in ‘exposing’ the trigger happy ways of the Maoists, often obscuring the socio-economic and political context to the demands of the tribals. The conception of the problem in the simplistic framework of a security issue overlooks the disastrous consequences of the development paradigm employed in the region, the atrocities committed by state backed militia on the tribals and consequently, the grounds for resistance. From the war ravaged zones of Chattisgarh to the battle grounds of Lalgarh, we wish to investigate the many complexities involved in the issue and its representation in the media in order to cultivate a more sensitive approach towards it.

Key Note Speaker Dr Ien Ang; a brief introduction to her work

8 12 2009

Professor Ien Ang, Professor of Cultural Studies and the founding Director of CCR, is currently an Australian Research Council Australian Professorial Fellow. She is one of the leaders in cultural studies worldwide, with interdisciplinary work spanning many areas of the humanities and social sciences. Her books, including Watching Dallas, Desperately Seeking the Audience and On Not Speaking Chinese are recognised as classics in the field and her work has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Turkish, German, Korean, and Spanish. Her most recent book, co-authored with Gay Hawkins and Lamia Dabboussy, is The SBS Story: The Challenge of Cultural Diversity (UNSW Press, 2008)

Professor Ang’s innovative interdisciplinary work deals broadly with patterns of cultural flow and exchange in our globalised world, focusing on issues such as, the formation of audiences and publics, the politics of identity and difference, migration, ethnicity and multiculturalism in Australia and Asia  and on issues of representation in contemporary cultural institutions.

As a prominent public speaker and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, she is frequently called on for keynote addresses in Australia and internationally. As an ARC Professorial Fellow, Professor Ang aims to explore the theoretical and practical implications of notions of ‘cultural complexity’, in a research program entitled ‘Cultural Research for the 21st Century: Building Cultural Intelligence for a Complex World’. She is a champion of collaborative cultural research and has worked extensively with partner organisations such as the NSW Migration Heritage Centre, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Special Broadcasting Service and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Professor Ang has had the title of Distinguished Professor conferred on her by the University of Western Sydney in recognition of her outstanding research record and eminence. She is the first person at UWS to be conferred with this honour.

Professor Ien Ang will be addressing the Key Note lecture on the 18th December at 4.00 p.m

Key Speakers at Frames of Reference 2009 talk on Terror 24 X 7; A brief introduction

8 12 2009


Sreenivasan Jain

Sreenivasan Jain is the Managing Editor of NDTV 24×7 and host of popular show ‘Bombay Talkies’. He is based in Mumbai and has been associated with NDTV since 1995. Reporting on virtually every major national and international story, he specializes in reportage on terrorism, investigations and national politics. With a body of work varying from covering every major National and State Election in India, the Afghanistan war, the Sri Lanka conflict, and the 2000 Presidential Elections in the US, he has won national and international recognition for shows like ‘Witness’.

Ajit  Sahi

Veteran journalist Ajit Sahi is currently the Editor at Large , Tehelka. He has been constantly contributing several reports and investigative featuures especially on the SIMI factions, NAXAL violence and the inside story. Previously the executive editor at India TV. Sahi has over 20 years’ experience in the media industry. Prior to joining India TV, Sahi had worked as Communications Coordinator (South Asia) with the United Nations Millennium Campaign. The United Nations Millennium Campaign has been initiated by the United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan with the aim to stimulate a global movement to press governments to translate pledges made at the UN’s 2000 Millennium Summit into a reality.

Sahi was Executive Editor from 2004-06 and a founding member of Channel 7 before, it became IBN7. He had worked as a Senior Producer with STAR News from 2002-04, and as a Political Writer for IANS from 2000-02. He was also Executive Producer with BiTV in 1994-95, and Director in Vinod Dua’s Parakh for Doordarshan from 1992-93.

Sahi, who began his career with The Financial Express, moved to The Indian Express Group in 1986 and was there till 1991. A print medium journalist-turned-TV man, Sahi has also worked with Star News and the defunct Business India TV where he worked as a senior producer. There, he worked under political analyst and media person Vinod Dua and TV18’s present promoter Raghav Bahl.

Diptosh Mazumdar

Diptosh Majumdar has been a journalist for the past 26 years. He started his career with The Statesman in Kolkata. He moved to The Telegraph and was the Deputy Chief of its National Bureau in Delhi in the 90s. He later joined The Indian Express as a Senior Editor. He is one of the key members of the core team that started CNN-IBN in 2005. A leading journalist, Diptosh has travelled extensively, both in India and abroad, covering politics. He is a known commentator on politics and elections. Diptosh Majumdar is currently National Affairs Editor CNN-IBN.

Speakers at Frames of Reference 2009: A brief introduction

6 12 2009

Ashis Nandy: Inaugural Lecture on the 18th Morning at 10.30 am

Ashis Nandy (born 1937) is an Indian political psychologist, a critical theory based social theorist, and a leading social, cultural and political critics in contemporary times. A trained sociologist and clinical psychologist, his field covers a vast area of thinking such as public conscience, political psychology, mass violence, nationalism and culture.

He has worked on cultures of knowledge, visions, and dialogues of civilizations. He was Senior Fellow and Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) for several years before his retirement in 2004; today he is a Senior Honorary Fellow at the institute, apart from being the Chairperson of the Committee for Cultural Choices and Global Futures, also in New Delhi.

Part of the 2008 list of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll, Nandy had received the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2007. In 2008 he was listed as one of the top 100 public intellectuals of the world by the magazine, Foreign Policy, published by The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Nandy joined the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, as a young faculty member. While working there, he developed his own methodology by integrating clinical psychology and sociology. He served as the Director of CSDS between 1992 and 1997. He also serves on the Editorial Collective of Public Culture, a reviewed journal published by Duke University Press.

Nandy has coauthored a number of human rights reports and is active in movements for peace, alternative sciences and technologies, and cultural survival. He is a member of the Executive Councils of the World Futures Studies Federation, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, The International Network for Cultural Alternatives to Development, and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Nandy has been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., a Charles Wallace Fellow at the University of Hull, and a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Edinburgh. He held the first UNESCO Chair at the Center for European Studies, University of Trier, in 1994. In 2006 he became the National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

Professor Nandy is an intellectual who identifies and explores numerous and diverse problems. He has written extensively in last two decades. His much discussed book titled ‘The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism’, which was published in 1983 by the Oxford University Press, India talked about the psychological problems posed at a personal level by colonialism, for both colonizer and colonized. Nandy argues that the understanding of self is intertwined with those of race, class, and religion under colonialism, and that the Gandhian movement can be understood in part as an attempt to transcend a strong tendency of educated Indians to articulate political striving for independence in European terms. Through his prolific writing and other activities supported by his belief in non-violence, Professor Nandy has offered penetrating analysis from different angles of a wide range of problems such as political disputes and racial conflicts, and has made suggestions about how human beings can exist together and together globally, irrespective of national boundaries.

About Second Edition Of ‘Frames of Reference’, Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai…

2 12 2009

This is the second year when we, the students and faculty at the Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai are holding our annual seminar, called “Frames of Reference”. The theme for the seminar this year is ‘Constructing conflict: A critical dialogue on media representations’. In accordance with this idea of critically analyzing the representation of dissent in media and the political upheavals of the past few months, we have structured the seminars around three themes –

  1. Terror 24*7
  2. Naxalism: Deprivation, Resistance and State Response
  3. The North East: A Fractured Visual

The seminar is an endeavour to take undertake a critical appraisal of media and the modes, according to which it constructs and represents conflicts. Our attempt is to view how the media deals with conflicts in India, keeping in mind our sub themes for the seminar this year, which are the North East agitation, the ‘Naxalite threat’ and the hysteria around terrorism.

The seminar includes interactive sessions with media veterans, analysts and filmmakers as also student paper presentations. The entries for the paper presentations need to be registered with the organizing committee of the seminar and a soft copy of the paper mailed to by the13th of December, 2009.

We do hope that most of you shall choose to attend our seminar and make it a huge success.