Like his earlier film, Arising from the Surface, on the Hindi writer Muktibodh, The Mind of Clay is multi-linear and defies conventional distinction between a documentary and fiction film, thus creating, what Mani calls, “a non-fictional reality.” The film traces our entire cultural superstructure, myths, rituals, etc. in the act of pottery making, one of man’s earliest occupations. Mani’s film starts with a museum exhibiting terracotta of the past and moves out to the vast central Indian plains which saw the rise of one of the most ancient civilizations of the world, and the extreme south with its ritualistic pottery, linking the pot – a symbol of creation – with the rhythm of life. —B.D. Garga
Mani Kaul (1944-2011) was undoubtedly the Indian filmmaker who, along with Kumar Shahani, succeeded in radically overhauling the relationship of image to form, of speech to narrative, with the objective of creating a ‘purely cinematic object’ that is above all visual and formal.
He was born Rabindranath Kaul in Jodhpur in Rajasthan in 1944 into a family hailing from Kashmir. His uncle was the well-known actor-director Mahesh Kaul. Mani joined the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune initially as an acting student but then switched over to the direction course at the institute. He graduated from the FTII in 1966.
Mani’s first film Uski Roti (1969) was one of the key films of the ‘New Indian Cinema’ or the Indian New Wave. The film created shock waves when it was released as viewers did not know what quite to make of it due to its complete departure from all Indian Cinema earlier in terms of technique, form and narrative. The film is ‘adapted’ from… read more
"Suffused with Cezanne-like still life and images of potters at work, especially the weary, skillful hands that lovingly, spontaneously shape raw earth into little, wondrous artifacts, Mati Manas comes across as a tribute to the dignity and grace of human labour. Perhaps more importantly, Kaul’s return-to-zero film unveils a society where people’s relationship to art is still habitual and tactile, a pre-reflective, non-reductive, phenomenological way of experiencing art that stands in opposition to modern, appropriative, optical approaches – a split that is reflected in the chasm between how ancient pottery is exhibited in museums and sketched in textbooks as icons of heritage and triumph of archaeology and how it might have been perceived by people of its time."—The Seventh Art
A 90 minute film about Indian clay pots and figures with a colour palette of mainly grey, brown and cream may not sound very exciting. But set time aside for quiet contemplation, and the shadows, elegant gliding camera and mix of sounds, thoughts and verses may seep into your soul for a deeply rewarding experience.