Madhuja Mukherjee – curator

Madhuja Mukherjee
Short CV:
Madhuja Mukherjee studied Literature and Cinema at Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India (1992/1997). She did research-programme in Social Sciences (1997-98), and received her Ph.D degree in 2008. Madhuja has done formative research on Indian film industry, technological transformations, urban spaces and cultures, and on issues of genre, gender and labour. Her concerns are — material, method, and history. Madhuja has published extensively in reputable – scholarly journals; she is the author of the monograph ‘New Theatres Ltd.’ (Pune: NFAI, 2009), and editor of ‘Aural Films, Oral Cultures’ (Kolkata: JU Press, 2012), ‘Voices of the Talking Stars’ (Delhi/Kolkata: Sage/ Stree, 2017), which received the ‘Book Award for Excellence in Writing on Cinema’ at the 19thMumbai Film Festival, MAMI, 2017. Madhuja is Associate Professor of Film Studies at Jadavpur University.
Madhuja is engaged in extended practice of cinema, and inventive recreation of archival material. She has done multi-media installations, which reinvent archival material, thereby, hopes to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and archives and art-spaces. More recently, she has done site-specific installations by drawing from her research on cinema-halls.
Her art-installations have been shown at renowned galleries and international programmes, including ‘International Film Festival Rotterdam’ (2012), ‘Kolkata Arts Festival’ (2017). She
presented her projects at the collateral programmes of ‘Kochi-Muziris biennial’ 2016-17. Madhuja received ‘ArThink South-Asia fellowship’ for arts leadership (2013-14), and was selected for the
‘German Federal Goverment’s Vistors’ Programme (2017) to develop her work. Madhuja is the principal initiator of TENT, theatre for experiments in new technologies, Calcutta (independent art
platform), and organizes TENT ‘Little Cinema International Festival’ for experimental films and new media art, since 2014. She is the co-writer of the internationally acclaimed film ‘Qissa’
(Anup Singh, 2013), and ‘Carnival’ (2012), her first directorial venture, premiered at ‘International Film Festival Rotterdam’ under the ‘Bright Future’ category.

Curatorial statement
‘ City of Dread’

Historical studies and theories of a ‘city’ and notional spaces, as well as those on Calcutta, India – the city in concern –, are not uncommon. Moreover, ideas of the city, subjects of urbanity and transforming urbanscapes, have commonly figured in literature, theatre, and cinema. However, Calcutta/ Kolkata, like many other South-Asian cities entails its own unique story. Calcutta has
been a site of reconstruction since its inception, a thoroughfare of historical-political strife, and a city of ‘migrants’, from the times colonial powers overtook three villages, uprooted its inhabitants and built the capital of British Empire. During 19th century Calcutta emerged as a powerful port city, with marked spaces such as ‘White Town’ and ‘Black Town’, traces of which still remain in certain localities, on the streets, and in collective public memory. Calcutta is a city where, through the 20th century, some of the most intense crises of social history were played out –around colonialism, nationalism, partition of Bengal, suffering, refugeehood, along side its intense articulation through various art forms. A hot-bed of forceful Left struggles since 1930s,
the city has transformed rapidly during 21st century, after Global economy, cultures, and media became pertinent and pervasive. ‘City of Dread’, thus, looks closely at the contemporary shifts
and negotiations, as experienced by researchers, artists, writers, filmmakers and its citizens.
While North of Calcutta (and ‘Brown Town’) has figured in a plethora of popular narratives and imageries, South of Calcutta, partition memories, and accounts of structural expansion of the city
towards the ‘South’ following long-drawn struggles and migration, have been crucial within political discourses. ‘City of Dread’, however, focuses on the recent growth of the city on the Eastern quarters for instance, and considers the formation of ‘New Town’. The environmental changes of wetlands of east of Calcutta are part of contemporary mega-urbanisation – the monstrous growth of cities during the last century or so. The wetlands, which were a sprawling marshy area stretching eastwards for more than seventy square miles, have progressively vanished. In relation to such momentous alterations and ecological crises, we contemplate, and ask — how do the people on the margins experience change? By recalling the words of the radical Bengali poet Nabarun Bhattacharya we enquire:
What kind of city is this
That forgets its sparrows
What kind of city is this
That forgets its warriors, whores and poets
What kind of city is this
Where multi-storeyed crematoriums rise into the sky
What kind of city is this. […]

Furthermore, Janet Wolff (1985) in her well-known essay on gender and city had stated that: “flaneur’s freedom to wander at will through the city is essentially a masculine freedom. […]
There could never be a female flaneur: the flaneuse was invisible”. Indeed, on one hand, we explore the routes via which the “flaneuse” may become visible, and sense the city; on the other,
we observe that Flannery is “essentially” an elitist “freedom”, and thereby, trace the tracks of our historical surplus – the labourer, and the jobless.

List of videos

Ansuman Chakraborty (India) – Ismail, 2018, 10.32
Madhuja Mukherjee/ Epsita Halder (India) – RE-TAKE, 2008, 02.33
Utsab Chatterjee (India) – Grain, 2018, 05:58
Sudipto Basu, Chandan Biswas, Nilim Bose, Laboni Chatterjee, Bappaditya Das (India) – Tracts of Dust, 2018, 27:00

Details
1.
Title of work:
Sudipto Basu, Chandan Biswas, Nilim Bose, Laboni Chatterjee, Bappaditya Das (India) – Tracts of Dust, 2018, 27 min.
Credits:
Ideation: Sudipto Basu and Bappaditya Das / Location Sound: Archisman Mukherjee / Sound Mixing: Bappaditya Mondal / Sound Design and Edit: Bappaditya Das / Location Support: Raja Alam / Produced by: Dept. of Film Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
short synopsis:
‘Rajarhat’ (also known as ‘New Town’), located on the Eastern fringes of Calcutta, was built through several decades by swallowing up marshy land, and thereby threatening an entire eco-system. ‘New Town’ was planned as a smart city to be fitted with a high-end infrastructure and to be occupied by global tech/finance corporations. This would in turn feed a luxury housing market. However, like all smart cities built upon the whims and speculations of global finance, the projected plans fell through, leaving in its place a largely unoccupied township that is caught between two absent futures. The landless peasants who tilled the land for long have been displaced with little compensation: some pushed inwards towards the city, some further out towards the Sundarbans (the
mangrove forests). Located somewhere between the contemplative landscape film tradition and the classic city symphony film, the films immerses us in the sensory and material landscape of this constant flux, accumulation and decay. In the course of a typical day, we travel across the many sites that are caught within the web of this infrastructural utopia (or is it dystopia?), gathering snippets of remaining life and abstract monumental geometries. Yet there is no denouement, just a fleeting portrait of a non-place.

Artists
Sudipto Basu, Chandan Biswas, Nilim Bose, Laboni Chatterjee, Bappaditya Das, and others
short bio:
Brought together by the pure contingency of collaborative coursework, the collective that made Tracts of Dust nonetheless united through a shared interest in the almost sci-fi sensory landscape of Rajarhat, a commitment to capture its strong sense of absence and placelessness. We chose the long-take form not only because it would allow this sense to emerge, but because it allowed us to work around individual aesthetic differences through a database-logic of accumulation and permutation (shoot first, arrange later). Tracts had in that sense no author; it is a film that could have been made possibly by anyone at all.
Or if it had an author, that body (this collective) could be said to have found its voice and identity only on the digital editing timeline. Perhaps it is fitting for the times of which Rajarhat is a marker that our bio – who we are – can only be defined through a machinic infrastructure that deeply, intricately undergirds the work that we do and the lives that we live. The collective includes — Sudipto Basu, Chandan Biswas, Nilim Bose, Laboni Chatterjee, Bappaditya Das, Ipsita Dutta, Afsana Haq, Debtanu Karmakar, Puja Saha, Sohini Sengupta, & Sujan Sikdar.

2.
Ansuman Chakraborty (India) – Ismail, 2018, 10.32

Story/ Screenplay/ Visual Design/ Voice: Ansuman Chakraborty / – Edit: Vishal Tripathi, and Utsav Dan / Made on a Project Development Grant awarded by: German Consulate, Kolkata
Music and Song sourced and ‘quoted’ from: ‘Sarabande’ by Joseph Friedrich Haendel, ‘Finlandia’ by Jean Sibelius, ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, ‘Lehron pe Lehar’ (Film: Chhabili, 1960 Singer: Hemant Kumar)
short synopsis:
This is a story of ‘Ismail’, an unemployed, single, aging person, who eventually falls prey to the ever expanding drive of ‘Development’. Ismail is the residue of the contemporary imaginary spaces called ‘Modern City’. Ever since his arrival, and despite his failing health, Ismail kept on shifting from one odd job to another. Finally he obtains a temporary job in a cyber café — situated somewhere at the southern fringe of the city. At the time Ismail secured this job, the nearest Metro station was far away the cafe. Hence, he was allowed to leave early. On his way back home, towards North of Calcutta, he would roam across the city observing things. However, as the Metro lines expanded unto his workplace, his early exit was barred. As Metro Rail extended its routes, so did ‘Capital’ investments. Eventually, the small, make-shift, insignificant cyber cafe became as much futile as various other trades, animals, birds and Ismail. Ismail’s failure to cope with the new order is an inevitable one. Neither he deserves odes that were usually granted to Working Class Heroes nor does he claims any such thing. Only imaginary birds from his reverie arrive to perform his Swan Song. Ismail by no means, is skilled worker/labourer, nor does he put in much effort to be called so. He prefers observing things to his work and re-posits, re-orders and re-mixes them in his imagination in order to create an Almanac: an Almanac about his bonding with the city, his sense of loss and death and history as he witnessed it. This unique film comprising painted frames, and a fervent voice-over done voice-over by the artist, is as much a personal story as it is a political narrative of social change.

Ansuman Chakraborty
short bio:
Ansuman Chakraborty completed BFA in Art History from Kala Bhavana, Viswabharati University in 2003 and obtained Diploma in ‘Direction and Screenplay Writing’ from S.R.F.T.I , Kolkata in 2007. He worked in production houses, TV channels situated in Kolkata and Delhi. Wrote screenplays for four Bengali Tele Films and two Bengali Feature Films and kept on making drawings, paintings and graphic novelettes alongside.
He wanted two independent mediums of expression (Visual Art and Cinematic Narrative) which he academically dealt with to get orchestrated. In this very process he largely stressed on manual maneuvering of artistic tools and depended on minimal computational intervention. His experimentation has resulted in ‘Ismail’, his first film which he worked upon from 2017-18.

3.
Title of work:
Madhuja Mukherjee/ Epsita Halder (India) – RE-TAKE, 2008, 02.33
Direction: Madhuja-Epsita / Cast: Rupsa Sen / Camera: Nupur Mullick / Sound: Avik Mukhopadhyay / Edit: Krishnendu Ghosh / Production: The Media Lab, Jadavpur University, Calcutta
short synopsis:
‘Retake’ is a woman’s reclaimation of the city via cinema, and city histories. It explores many passages of cinema, and women’s secret histories as we re-visit the city. It opens in darkness, shadows, glimmer, flicker, amidst tingling noise, and with a face — looking at the city from a distant. Whose city is this? What claims do women have vis-à-vis city spaces, even when historical studies narrate how partition forced middle-class women out of sheltered and cozy households, and reintroduced them in the grimness of workplace? The spectral vehicles slashing her, and she looking — yet not looking, as well, the flight of birds evoke a sense of movement, an impression of joy and a fragmentary feeling of freedom following loss. Does she attain a voice? Can she revel in
her newly found pleasures? The lingering gloom on face betrays a self-doubt. How can she return to the new and ever growing, ever-changing city? What risks does she take? Perhaps she moves two steps backward as she takes a step forward. The filmic image is both a means and a process through which such journeys are articulated. ‘Re-take’ is a video-dairy and a scrapbook of the new woman, who embarks on the new path, and recalls stories of women from the past, and those yet to arrive.

Madhuja Mukherjee
is Associate Professor of Film Studies at Jadavpur University, Calcutta. She is engaged in extended practice of cinema, and inventive recreation of archival material. She has done multi-media installations, which reinvent archival material, thereby, hopes to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and archives and art-spaces. Her art-installations have been shown at renowned galleries and international programmes, including ‘International Film Festival Rotterdam’ (2012), ‘Kolkata Arts Festival’ (2017). She presented her projects at the collateral programmes of ‘KochiMuziris biennial’ 2016-17. Madhuja received ‘ArThink South-Asia fellowship’ for arts leadership (2013-14), and was selected for ‘German Federal Goverment’s Vistors’ Programme (2017) to develop her work. Madhuja is the principal initiator of TENT, theatre for experiments in new technologies, Calcutta (independent art platform), and organizes TENT ‘Little Cinema International Festival’ for experimental films and new media art, since 2014. She is the co-writer of the internationally acclaimed film ‘Qissa’ (Anup Singh, 2013), and ‘Carnival’ (2012), her first directorial venture, premiered at ‘International Film Festival Rotterdam’ under the ‘Bright Future’ category.

Epsita Halder
is Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Calcutta. Her areas of interests are Narratology, Performance Studies, Cultural Studies; and her research project is on Islam in Bengal. She is specifically interested in popular piety, Muslim sonic and visual cultures, and the impact of new media on vernacular Islam of Bengal. She received Charles Wallace Fellowship in 2011, and a grant for Art Research and Documentation from India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore, in 2011. Epsita is also a profilic writer in Bangla — she is fiction-writer, poet
and an artist. Her book on ‘Fakir uprising in colonial Bengal’, was published in 2002 (by Papyrus, Kolkata). Epsita has also writtern a detective novel (2006) with a teenaged girl – Ayesha – as her protogonist, which was published in serialized form.

4.
Utsab Chatterjee (India) – Grain, 2018, 05:58

Concept, Direction, and Camera: Utsab Chatterjee / Editing & Sound designing: Utsab Chatterjee and Ansuman dey / Performance: Chirasri Roy / Production: Utsab Chatterjee
short synopsis:
‘Grain’ is an attempt to disrupt the cluster of dystopia; it is a series of non-sequential visual dialogue that hammers us out of our comfort zones — a demonic and mechanized situation of alienation in the new city. ‘Grain’ deliberately churns out impermanence, an existentialist maneuver as it were. ‘Grain’ — the primary locus of rupture isn’t just a term; it travels through the unpredictability of our reality, like the sweat of the earth, or the rhythmic stride of the heartbeat as well as the friction between nonchalant lack of a plot and the patterns of a rational discourse. Arresting a stream of thought, within an asymmetrical network of images, ‘Grain’ is without foreplay or climax, or consummation of any acceptable mode. Indeed, the attempt to relate would be a dreadful manifestation of cozy amnesia. What goes on in the GRAIN merely follows Artaud’s prescription for a spectacle which will eliminate the stage, that is, the distance between spectators and performers, and “will physically envelop the spectator”. Thus, its neither a spectacle nor memetic; GRAIN is perhaps a movement through the city.


Utsab Chatterjee

Utsab is a visual artist, formally trained as a painter, but through times he developed or equipped himself with the knowledge of the audio-visual medium. He has been engaged in the practice of video art as an extension of his painterly concerns, around urban and existentialist interpretation. His interest towards the medium grew as he note different geographical paranorm vis-à-vis a neo-rural scenario during his Masters in Kalabhavan, Santiniketan (2011-2013). In this respect, Utsab has been reengaging with the tools of avant-garde practices like Fluxus and transmedia processes to explore the relationship of residue, loss, absence as a situational experience in a futuristic interpretation of contemporary urban existence. The former training in mainstream narrative art-making
process has been shifted towards or has morphed into a research-based critical anthology which creates a perceptive, often scathing work of cultural criticism, a study in the contrast between social decadence and creative endurance.
Awards:
National Scholarship, Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India / Gold medal, Indo-Russian Youth Guild Award, Ministry of Culture, Russia, / Sunil Das Scholarship / Jainul Abedin Award