JDCA fest: Celluloid celebration of art and artists

The decade old prestigious annual national festival of films on arts and artists presented by Jatin Das went global this year.

Published - February 02, 2017 04:54 pm IST

Chinese artist-activist Ai Wei Wei

Chinese artist-activist Ai Wei Wei

“What best can an artist give back to one’s home-land?” This thought struck New Delhi-based eminent Odia artist Jatin Das 20 years ago when he was 55. Thus was born the Jatin Das Centre of Art (JDCA) in Bhubaneswar. The two-decade old Centre is now known for its art museum coming up in the city, the monthly meet-the-artist programmes that have been running for the past 200 months without a break and an annual national festival of films on art and artists that has turned 11 this year.

The festival that graduated from national to global this year, with entries from 14 countries, has been receiving impressive support from the friends and family of Jatin Das. His documentary filmmaker brother Biren Das, well-known actress-activist daughter Nandita Das and established designer-son Siddharth Das apart as core team members; he enjoys the goodwill of a galaxy of filmmakers, artists and intellectuals from across India who have been joining the festival regularly since it was launched. The three-day event this year that concluded on Sunday witnessed the presence and participation of stalwarts like the legendary filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, iconic photographer Raghu Rai, Jnanapith awardee writer Sitakant Mahapatra, celebrated Kannada filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli, eminent film scholar Aruna Vasudev (who was the festival director this year), former foreign secretary and Indian Council for Cultural Relations’s former director general Lalit Mansingh.

The only one of its kind in Asia, the festival zooms in on a theme every year though films on a wide array of aspects of art and culture. Over the years, the festival has focused on themes like tribal art and culture, Buddhist art and culture, art and arts of Bangladesh, visual and plastic art, celebrating great masters, portraits and arts and crafts of Odisha. This year, the focus was on Architecture.

Of the impressive entries in Architecture section, The man Who Built Cambodia was on architect Vann Molyvann who created a unique style for Cambodia and who has designed many major structures of the country. Similarly, Didi Contractor: marrying the earth to the building diligently documents the Switzerland-born octogenarian lady architect’s mission to build sustainable and beautiful houses in the Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh. The other film with fantastic camera work was Baab-e-Dakan: Burhanpur on the lesser-known town of Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh which rose to much political, economic, spiritual and military importance as “the doorway to Deccan” till roads came up during British India between north and south India.

In the performing arts segment, Umesh Aggarwal’s well-made film Jai Ho on iconic Indian musician A R Rahman won hearts. Apart from showing the growth of the musician in bringing the east and the west together through his music, the spectacular success of the film has been making the protagonist speak who hardly speaks.

Chennai-based Indian classical dancer and actress Kadambari Sivaya’s well thought out and intensely made movie The Thinking Body nicely explores the sensual and spiritual transformation of the dancer’s body into the masculine and the feminine. The other small but beautiful film in the section was Lakshmipriya Menon’s Down the Mask on the artistic journey of an aspiring young female dancer to pursue Kerala’s unique Ottunthullal dance tradition.

Fabulous filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli’s documentary on India’s living legend Adoor Gopalakrishnan was a major attraction in the festival as it shows two masters at work together. The presence of both the personalities at the screening, who shared their views on the making of the film, was a rare opportunity for the gathering.

The visual art section of the festival had a rich collection of films. Films made on celebrated artists like Satish Gujral ( Metamorphosis ), S H Raza ( Bindu, The Cosmic Dot ), Krishen Khanna (all from India); David Hockney (England) and Jean-Paul Fragier (France). Films on three veteran artists of Odisha were also included – Muralidhar Tali, Ajit Keshari Ray and Gokul Behari Patnaik.

However, the most compelling film of the festival was the Chinese entry Ai Wei Wei – Never Sorry that revolved round the life and mission of a globally noticed veteran artist and socio-political activist whose works and actions blur the boundary between art and politics. Filmmaker Alison Klayman, an American, explores all possible means and takes risks apparently being a foreigner – to document the ugly face of Chinese Government that represses the freedom of the people and of the artists. Both in craft and content, the film that portrays art and artist as the vehicle for change, emerged superlative.

The entries from promising filmmakers that deserve special mention are Reading Glass by Malin Pettersson from Sweden that portrays glass objects as a significant product of culture apart from documenting the beautiful glass-art tradition of her country; Devouring Blossom , a poetic portrayal of the politics of Manipur state in India by The Netherlands-based Sarojini Lewis; French filmmaker Berenice Ellena’s documentary Yatra Sutra on mythology and metaphysics in Indian textiles and the illustrated talk with visuals on Polish contemporary art by art historian and curator Marta Krolikowska from Poland.

The highlight of the festival this year was an illustrated talk by celebrated photographer Raghu Rai who lucidly explained the anecdotes behind the frames that spanned over half a century of his career. An exhibition of his books and the journals that he edits and publishes were the other major attraction at the festival where Odisha’s traditional craft, art and cuisine were on display.

Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, known as a writer and painter, inaugurated the festival and extended his Government’s patronage for the festival that has emerged as a much-awaited annual affair in the cultural calendar of Bhubaneswar.

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