The ongoing Sadho Poetry Film Festival seeks to take poetry to people

In conversations about cinema, the description “poetic” makes a frequent occurrence, often to express nothing more than an ill-defined sense of something beautiful or enigmatic. But do the two arts share a deeper relationship, do they converge somewhere?

Jitendra Ramprakash believes they do. He is the founder of Sadho, a voluntary organisation that seeks to take poetry to people in diverse ways. Chief among them is the Sadho Poetry Film Festival, a biennial festival showcasing a variety of films that have to do with poets and poetry.

A former journalist, Jitendra tried his hand at films during his television years, which helped him to acquire a “sensibility of how to look at cinema”. He is also a poet, and after quitting television, thought of combining his understanding of the two media — cinema and poetry.

Sadho Poetry Film Festival is an outcome of that. The two-day film festival, now eight years and four editions old, is being held at Alliance Francaise in the Capital and concludes this Thursday. “I think there is space for quite a few arts around us. Cinema is all around us. Music is all around us. Other arts like dance and even theatre do make their presence felt but I found that poetry has got confined to books and literary circles…only two kinds of poetry are part of the popular cultural space — either the poems that become songs in films or popular albums or a certain kind of poetry which is there in mushairas and kavi sammelans. So the idea was to take it out of the confines of books and literary circles and promote it,” says Jitendra, who is also the curator of the film festival.

The programme of the film festival seems, at first, an exercise in overzealous taxonomy. The films on offer have been split into five categories — poetry films, poetic films, poetry discourse films, films on poets and sign language poetry films. Over 75 per cent of the films being screened are poetry films, or films that are based on or inspired by a poem. Some of these short films are Grandmother is a Crab based on a poem by Rosemary Norman, My Heimat based on a poem by Ulrike Almut Sandug, Something I Remember based on a poem by Robert Lax, and Ithaka based on a poem by C.P. Cavafy.

Quite apart from these, poetic films are films that are highly poetic in their cinematic construction, says Jitendra. They require honesty from the filmmaker and surrender from the audience. “While watching poetic films, I find it’s best to remain at experiential level and flow with spontaneous impact such a film has rather than try and deduce a mathematical meaning.”

Explaining the concept of a sign language poetry film, Jitendra says in most sign language videos, the content is first written and then relayed through mudras. In this case, however, the poem is created in sign language and then translated or transcreated in a written and spoken language. At the festival, one such film is being screened.

Recognising that the aural is also a strong component of poetry, Sadho also has an audio project, which includes performances, workshops and albums of poetry recitation. At the festival, Sadho is launching the first album of the ‘Poet’s Voice’ series, featuring 35 poems of Jnanpith Award winner Kunwar Narain, recited by the poet himself. The next in the series is Shankha Ghosh. “Poetry has remained alive through the sound, the oral traditions and the great joy of poetry in shruti of it,” says Jitendra, adding that his energies will be focused in this area for the coming years.