After a winter-long break Pad.ma restarts its regular updates about
collections, videos in the archive and new writings by Pad.ma fellows.
This month’s featured essay is on bar dancers in Mumbai, by Shrimoyee
Nandini Ghosh (lawyer, researcher and writer) and our featured collection
showcases footage from Odissi dancer Kumkum Lal’s personal archive
annotated in conversation with Ranjana Dave (dancer, researcher and
writer). We are keen to encourage writing in the archive, and invite
anybody with research ideas around archival material in Pad.ma, to contact
us at http://pad.ma/contact
These essays are showcased in the beta version of a video-essay platform
that links video and text and provokes new ways of writing in the archive
and thinking about video (functional in Firefox and Chrome). The platform
allows for essays to be linked to video clips that appear upon clicking in
the right-hand side bar, along with transcripts and annotations drawn from
Pad.ma. These video clips can elucidate, illustrate or show that which is
elided in the process of writing.
For the month of March, the archive bustles with poets and dancers,
speaking about body, labour, tradition and the city of Mumbai. Namdeo
Dhasal, the poet and politician, describes the city of Mumbai as his
beloved whore, and the many interviews of bar dancers in the archive speak
up against the oppressive ban on dancing imposed by the city’s keepers of
morality and Indian culture.
The dubiously famous Radia tapes that include conversations largely to do
with the 2G scam and spectrum allocation, have been transcribed and made
searchable on Pad.ma. The conversations reveal the grimy nexus between
lobbyists, politicians, industrialists and the media that plays a role in
major government decisions.
We also point you to ‘A Little Justice Goes a Long Way’, Philip Rizk’s
short film on labour movements in Mahalla and Cairo, Egypt in 2010. Also
included are new texts from Pad.ma on the politics of archiving – an
ongoing series of questions about the naming of something (an activity, a
social setting, a website or online tool) as archive, or exhibition, or
The Bombay Bargirl: An Archival Adventure by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh
Ghosh’s essay on bar dancers traverses the archive in the search of the
elusive bar dancer not imprisoned by tropes and stereotypes – the victim
of circumstance as she is narrated in the law, the vamp of popular
culture, Shantaram’s desultory Monalisa (in the novel by Gregory David
Roberts) or the radical reactionary heroine for activists and feminists.
The essay is structured as fragments and annotations on different aspects
of the bar dancer’s life (see list of headings). The video material is
largely referenced from the Majlis archive of conversations with bar
dancers, television programs and debates, interviews with leading
politicians, union heads and others. Ghosh says – “In the hands of an
epistemological adventurer, the archive becomes a transgressive mode of
knowing that rescues the plenitude of experience from the structuring
order of the law and historical narrative”
Narayan Surve – A Tribute by Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar
Filmmakers Monteiro and Jayashankar remember the revolutionary poet who
chronicled working class life in Mumbai, in his poems. Surve appeared in
Saacha (2000), their film about Mumbai’s working class, but more
significantly, inspired them with his unbounded optimism.
Writing Over A Hundred Cups Of Tea by Ranjana Dave
In 1986, at her temporary home in Tokyo, Kumkum Lal hosted Guru Kelucharan
Mohapatra and a group of musicians including the composer Pt. Bhubaneswar
Mishra, for a month. Twenty five years later, Kumkum Lal revisits the
Japan tour through recordings made by her husband Ashok with his first
video camera. While watching Kelucharan Mohapatra outside the performance
space makes everything about the footage seem out of the ordinary, Kumkum
makes her way through days and nights spent choreographing, cooking,
teaching, drinking tea, dancing, stopping, to take in the ephemeral,
scattered moments that are windows into other lives and other stories.
A pad.ma workshop in Cairo last year, titled “Don’t wait for the Archive:
Part 2″ gathered together artists, activists, amateur collectors and those
working for government museums and institutional archives in Cairo and
Beirut. The workshop was followed by a conference titled ‘Speak, Memory’
on the politics of archiving and (re)activation of cultural memory. At the
conference, different visions and stratagems of archiving were discussed
including open or closed, institutional or radical, private or government.
Here we share four texts that elaborate on certain issues around archiving
that interest us, including the problem of displaying the archive, legal
edifice for archives, politics of technology and notes on collaboration.
Outlawed or Gair Kanooni – Namita A. Malhotra
Exhibition and Archive – Ashok Sukumaran
Don’t Wait for the Archive – Sanjay Bhangar
Notes on Collaboration – Sebastian Lütgert
Interview with Namdeo Dhasal – Poet and Politician
This video of Namdeo Dhasal being interviewed by Madhushree Dutta, is an
exceptional record of the journeys undertaken by Dhasal in the course of
his life, from being a Dalit Panther to a member of Shiv Sena. The
phenomenon of Dhasal cannot be captured through a singular interview, and
yet many facets of his persona (as a lyrical poet, suave politician,
cynical activist) can be seen through this interview, which ends with
Dhasal reading his poems.
Abbas Baydoun: http://pad.ma/Vgdhcue4/info
‘A Little Justice Goes a Long Way’
Philip Rizk’s short documentary about the struggles of workers in Mahalla
and Cairo in Egypt to raise minimum wage from an abysmal low of only 6$ a
month. In the Pad.ma workshop in Cairo, Rizk shared with us along with
this film, a collection of mobile phone videos and images of these
protests taken by the workers themselves. There was little or no reportage
of these protests or the condition of workers in mainstream news coverage
in Egypt and this short documentary was meant to inform people of the
demands of workers.
With Love From Japan, 1986
Kumkum Lal’s archive exploits pad.ma‘s feature of annotating to
timed-video and in mutliple layers. Kumkum reviews the footage in
conversation with Ranjana Dave, her student and researcher. Texts, lyrics,
translations, notations, explications and elaboration of Sancharis,
technical and formal description, references and citations give reading
and interpretation to the Odissi dance form, while personal memories allow
for a biographical account to be journeyed through.
The sex worker in Bollywood
Tupur Chatterjee (Point of View) puts together clips from films like Amar
Prem, Umrao Jaan and Mandi as well as the more recent Julie, Chameli and
Sadak, to explore the popular concern with and presence of the sex worker
in many Hindi film genres (commercial, art house, historical and B-grade).
The depictions traverse a range of characters, including gharwalis and
pimps to name a few.
This collection includes taped conversations of professional lobbyist Nira
Radia with politicians, journalists, bureaucrats and others, that have
been made publicly available. These scratchy telephonic conversations
reveal the networks of power and corruption, leaking the bedroom voices of
politics and journalism into the public domain.
Meanwhile this week in the Gulf, Shaina Anand and Sebastian Lütgert
presented Pad.ma and spoke on a discussion panel for “Soft Institutions”
at the Global Art Forum that took place at the Mahtaf, Arab Museum of
Modern Art, Doha, March 14th 2011.
CAMP presented Al Jaar Qabla Al Daar, (The Neighbour before the House), a
72- minute film based on footage generated during a project in
Jerusalem/Al Quds in October, 2009 at the Sharjah Biennial X that opened
on March 16th 2011.
In Mumbai over winter, CAMP presented ‘A Season of Footage and Films’, a
series of 10 screenings. The idea being that a screening need not be only
of films, and even films contain “footageness” whose value isn’t limited
to any particular instance of its use. See the program here:
Pad.ma is an interpretative web-based video archive, which works primarily
with footage and not finished films. Pad.ma creates access to material
which is easily lost in editing processes, in the filmmaking economy, and
in changes of scale brought about by digital technology. Unlike Youtube
and similar video sites, the focus here is on annotation, cross-linking,
downloading and the reuse of video material for research, pedagogy and
reference. For more, see http://pad.ma/about.
This newsletter is put together by Namita A. Malhotra and will henceforth
be once in two months, or so.