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Cinema of Prayoga: Is technology ruling us or liberating us?

Amrit Gangar will speak on Cinema of Prayoga: Rigour of Austerity on Sunday July 1 at 11 at Museum of Goa, Pilerne in Bardez

01st July 2018, 02:17 Hrs

Bharati Pawaskar


Today’s cinema is different than what cinema was half-a-century ago. With the advancement of technology cinema there has been a metamorphosis in cinema which has transformed and changed. But is it for better or worse? What has technological advancement done to cinema? These churning and burning questions will find their answers in the talk ‘Cinema of Prayoga: Rigour of Austerity’ by Amrut Gangar who has been working in the field of cinema in various capacities for over three decades.   

Disclosing that it is for the first time that someone is using this term, ‘Rigour of Austerity’ Amrut Gangar, an independent writer, film theorist, curator and historian from Mumbai, poses some serious questions regarding cinema before his audience - “What do quest, austerity and Indian notions of time and space have to do with experiment and filmmaking? In these times of great advances in technology, are we being ruled by technology, or are we letting technology liberate us?”   

Speaking to The Goan on his idea of rigour and austerity, Gangar says, “Our own culture and traditions has rigour and austerity. Any art and especially if it is cinema, should have rigour and austerity if it has to be great. Any art will not sustain without the beauty of emotional intelligence. Look at the great art at Ajanta and Ellora. It has lasted for ages and still mesmerises us because it is created with extreme integrity. There is a deep sense of devotion underlying the carved images, which are not mere stone structures. That’s why these works of art are considered as the sources of inspiration even today. They come as source of inspiration in my own cinematic conscience too.”  

Gangar feels that our Indian culture is more eclectic in nature. “We take pride in our own eclectic cultural history and draw ideas and concepts from our cultural heritage. It is like ‘tapasya’ or ‘sadhana’ which is close to rigour and austerity. English vocabulary is short of words and meanings when it comes to describing or expressing our ancient concepts. It takes years of ‘tapasya’ for an artist to master an art, be it music or dance or vocal recital. Each ‘raga’ would take years of ‘riyaz’ before one performs it publicly with confidence. The learning comes through Guru Shishya Parampara in our culture where the teacher sees to it that the disciple has mastered the art fully. Today’s education does lacks this commitment and dedication,” laments Gangar.   

Citing example of Paul Cezanne who says, ‘one brush stroke to canvas is risk to my life’, Gangar points out the deep emotions of the artist towards the art. “One wrong stroke can ruin the art, and it is a great deal of agony to the artist,” he expresses. Commenting on the commercialisation of art today, Gangar says, “It is sad that today’s cinema talks loud of the market and filmmakers concentrate on the ‘box office’ hits. Today’s cinema stinks of money and there is no art or heart poured in the making of these big budget movies, bombarded with technology than real acting.”  

Turing rhetoric, Gangar says, “Googaleshwar is god for today’s generation. What this god says they believe blindly. This god rates technology as the highest and sets the bar. It is art that makes a good cinema or a great cinema and not the technological advances. The Bharatmuni’s Natyashashtra teaches us what the real acting should be. It is sad that most books are missing in the syllabus of the convent educated generation.”  

According to Gangar, cinema can be measured as a temporal medium, which is very close to poetry and music. There is a radical difference in what has been taught in the West. India has a rich treasure of literature and knowledge in our books of wisdom which speak of 64 forms of art in detail. But we look up to the West to learn the art of cinema. Asked what could be done to divert our youth to have a taste for good cinema, Gangar suggests, “The first thing is we have to remove cinema from the books of mass communication. The inclusion of cinema as a medium of mass communication is wrong. It has destroyed the young talent. Cinema cannot be business. Cinema is not made for profit. It is made and enjoyed for the love of art. Advertising can be a part of mass media but not cinema.”  

Gangar who is in the committee of Chal Chitra Academy, feels that instead of keeping cinema under the information and broadcasting ministry, there should be an independent ministry handling it. Kerala is the only state that has a separate minister taking care of cinema. There should be a national level Chal Chitra Academy for cinema, he suggests. It is the marketing of cinema that mars its soul and what is left behind is soulless art that has a body of glamour and technology. The students learning cinema should first encounter life, learn to weave to understand the patterns of joy and sorrow which are intertwined to make what we call life. Technology should liberate us and not enslave us. A hearty film can be made with minimal money. We must teach our students that it does not need crores of rupees to make a soulful film. One needs only a good heart and emotional intelligence to make cinema and understand it. We are generating educated illiterates in young India which has so much potential of giving good cinema to the world.”  

Gangar recalls that it was in 2005, he first introduced his concept of Cinema of Prayoga which came out of the quest to search for an alternative that would comprehend cinema as a temporal art more than the visual and raise the question whether a filmmaker really experiments? “Cinema of Prayoga attempts to reconfigure the generally accepted notion of the experimental and the avant-garde in Indian cinema by conjuring the term ‘Prayoga’ from Indian philosophical thought,” he observes.   

In its garbha (womb) it nurtures the essence of austerity and asceticism as an artistic praxis challenging the pre-conceived fears of the monsters of market and money. The rigour of austerity becomes a pivotal artistic edge in this praxis and thought. Gangar will be sharing his concept of Cinema of Prayoga with the audience. It is a concept that has been shared internationally and that has piqued the interest of film studies at centres across the world. A conversation with Gangar about creating artistic work is also a conversation about attitudes to life and living. “For me, there is little difference between the two,” says Gangar.   

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