Enter the Elephant

A group of Chinese scholars and intellectuals is now attempting to restore India's place in the Chinese imagination. Taiwanese academic Chen Kuan-Hsing and Johnson Chang, gallery owner and well-known face in the contemporary Chinese art world, got together in December 2009 to launch the “West Heavens” project.

This year, West Heavens has put together a more ambitious effort; a first-of-its-kind month-long festival of independent Indian cinema, which will showcase 30 films in four Chinese cities and hold dialogues on film theory and social thought. The “India-China Dialogue of Film and Social Thought” opened in Beijing on November 25, and will travel to Shanghai, Guangzhou and finally close in Kunming on December 25. It is being hosted by West Heavens, Magic Lantern, New Delhi, the Indian Embassy in Beijing and the Beijing Film Academy.

Curating the event is veteran Indian film historian Ashish Rajadhyaksha, who chose films, which includes non-fiction, to give Chinese audiences a more in-depth understanding of India's diverse traditions beyond Bollywood caricatures. The films include Ritwik Ghatak's “Komal Gandhar”, Paromita Vohra's “Morality TV & Loving Jehad”, Dibakar Bannerjee's “Love, Sex Aur Dhoka” and Anuraag Kashyap's acclaimed “No Smoking”.

Yun Chen, a Shanghai native who helped put the festival together and is a researcher with West Heavens, says, “Despite being neighbours, we have had little in the way of cultural contact, with both countries now focusing on the West. This is a way for us to see each other, and hopefully, finally start talking to each other again.”

Ananth Krishnan

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