“The value of an image or a sound (in the cinematographic system) is not in what it is; rather, it is in what it is not.”
“When the most important (the most hidden idea) is found (or even sensed), the film will show how rich people are in their minds and hearts, and not how rich the film is in its forms and ideas.”
“You will have to think for the film a sequence of scenes and for each scene a sequence of shots that are repeatedly informed of this question on account of their various juxtapositions. Not just raise the question at the end of the film in an epilogue. The question then will simmer between shots. In other words you should not attempt to make a single shot ‘say’ a thing. Rather, use differences between two or more shots to make the audience raise the question. The difference may in extreme situations amount to a contradiction.”
“The relationship between images, between sounds and between images and sounds alone determines the content ( a world view or if you like the question) for the film. Keep only necessary images and necessary sounds. The necessity is on account of their mutual relationship.”
“Do listen to others (I being one of the others for you) but strictly follow your own impulse. The project of any film is to find oneself in the making of it and not to merely fashion an cinematic object of high emotional or intellectual kind that is external to oneself.”
RIP Mani Kaul (1944-2011)
thanks for this kaevan…. :(
if only more of his films were available….
Love all these thoughts:
a) the idea/fact of the question simmering between shots
b) the relationship between images, sounds, and that of the relationship between images and sounds – the importance of these relationships, how they should be clearly perceived and related together, and being economical with these elements helps achieve this
c) the acknowledgement that the audience is actually rich in their minds and hearts and the film they are watching can prompt them to find these qualities in themselves (how often this possibility is dismissed!)
d) and last but not least, the directive to follow one’s impulse and find oneself in the making of one’s own film, finding oneself reflected in it in a definite way (even if not necessarily obvious to the audience’s conscious perception)
thanks a lot for that kaevan ! thats a great insight !
i will definitely watch his remaining movies with all that thought in my mind..
Thanks a lot. Kaevan … !
Thank you. Though I have not watched any of Mr. Kaul’s films, from what I have glimpsed and read, I can only say my respect is already immense for someone who was so keen on exploring the depths of the cinematic apparatus.
Kaevan, nice homage to the master remembering his words. Thanks :)
This is for those who live in or around Delhi (unfortunately, I don’t).
Wish I was near delhi as well :)
There is an amazing video of Mani talking about Bresson, here’s the link.
I wonder if his last recorded interview is the Mark Cousins piece. Kual was a great artist and intellectual. For an artist who loved sensation, the sublime, the ineffable, the visceral he seemed to be able to articulate his ideas so perfectly. Maybe the perfect model for a film professor. I would have liked to have met him at least once. Oh well. Loved the cadence of his voice too.
Film found a new auteur in the hands of Mani Kaul. Too bad he is forgotten and widely ignored internationally. Rest in peace.
Just seen A Mind of Clay (1985). 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.
And Siddheshwari- albeit seen without subs- is extraordinary and magnificent. Duvidha is a very enjoyable quirky little ghost story
The neglect of a director of such rare intelligence and sensitivity is sad indeed. Too many film critics- the ones polled by Sight & Sound, never mind the lad mags- are looking the wrong way.
I recently watched Mani Kaul’s Siddeshwari, and it was magnificent, particularly for the manner in which individual scenes seemed to unfold new spaces and possibilities, with shots flowing not just into what comes immediately after, but also carrying a certain quality of diffusing and echoing throughout the rest of the film. One individual sequence I found extraordinary was that of an old musician playing an instrument lying on his back. The playing itself of course is wonderful, but the position is highly unusual and it ends with Kaul’s camera, in near-continuous motion, halting very close to the musician’s feet. It’s beautifully done.
The final scene too, with the actress who plays the titular character watching archival footage of the real Siddeshwari Devi, is amazing, and quite fitting as well, perfectly suggesting the place the film itself occupies in relation to the artist, her life and her art, as a very unique hybrid of documentary, fiction, poetry and music.
I came across this excerpt which talks of the sequence with the old musician in Siddeshwari. Perhaps others who have seen the film will find it of some interest.
When a painter stands in front of a an easel and paints a picture, the gaze travels towards the vanishing point. In this case, there would be the demand for perspective, and depth of field. On the other hand, I suggest, when a painter is squatting on the ground (or sitting on a mat) and the paper is placed on the ground (or a low stool) the pictorial surface appears flat, and the bottom frame or the bottom layer becomes important. In discussing the prominence attached to the bottom frame, we return to the relationship between the production of miniature paintings in relation to the eye and the body of the squatting artist (and by extension the audience).
The bottom frame also has a resonance for the viewer. While writing this article, I happened to be watching Mani Kaul’s chef-d’oeuvre, Siddheshwari (Hindi, 1987), a film that most successfully recreates the feel of miniature painting. I watched the film sitting on the floor (the carpeted theatre of the National Film Archive of India and its tradition of removing footgear before entering, which made it convenient for me to do so). A poignant sequence shows the Sarod maestro, Pandit Narayan Mishra, lying on the bed and playing his instrument most beautifully, despite the supine position. The camera lingers for about three minutes, and then shots cut back and forth between a close-up of his face, and the full torso in long shot. Last, the camera pulls back, so that his feet, earlier outside the frame, now become visible in extreme bottom frame. The camera rests on that image for a little while.
The first time I had seen the film, I had asked Mani Kaul if the camera was touching the guru’s feet, and Kaul only smiled. But the experience at least illuminates the fact that the bottom frame may have been designed to incorporate the cultural habit of people who may have watched a film while sitting on the ground. — Gayatri Chatterjee
Thanks for posting that mladý muž. I’ve been hoping for English subtitles for Siddeshwari to surface, either that or an official DVD with subtitles.
I’ve seen the custom DVD sourced from Films Division but I’ve never found it officially published for sale anywhere on the web.
Thankfully NDFC have published Uski Roti, Duvidha and Nazar.
Also, here’s a Duvidha thread for anyone interested.
Mani Kaul claimed, on more than one occasion, that he considered cinema a primarily temporal discipline more than a spatio-visual one, and The Mind of Clay is perhaps the greatest manifestation of this belief, and in that regard it is probably his quintessential film, if not his best (though it comes close). Of course, Kenji does mention the grey and brown color palette, and as deliberate a choice as it is, in terms of lending texture, it is still visually a lot less memorable than some of his other films (the striking use of color in Duvidha, the sensuousness of Siddeshwari, or even the severe imagery of decaying urban architecture and landscape in Arising from the Surface are ones that come to mind). Many of the images are steeped in the mundane, and punctuated by arbitrary, equally mundane “events”. There are two I recall off the top of my head. A woman standing below a tree, a gentle wind, and a leaf falls. A local musician describes how the drum is made, then starts playing it in his room, and in the middle of the impromptu performance, we see some kids through the narrow door, noisily running across the frame. These are minor interruptions, inconsequential and barely noticeable, yet they bring the image (and the viewer) in contact with what Kaul himself called “the pulsating presence of time”.
Of course, it is not entirely true that the film isn’t visual at all; indeed, the one visual motif that it repeatedly returns to is that of human hands (and feet) working with soil, mud and clay. Yet, what this recurring motif does, in conjunction with the narration, is to tie this very activity of working with soil, of making pots, with a greater tradition, with history and myth, treating it as a part of a seemingly infinite continuum of time. The dense narration makes allusions to multiple myths and pasts, the epic of Gilgamesh, headless women disappearing underground, milk and blood spurting out from the soil, buried skeletons of beasts and humans discovered by future generations. These are myths, stories or historical realities all revolving around and intimately linked to soil, land and past lives, so pottery is an act of creation, but it is also an interaction with the past, an echoing of mythology, an acknowledgement of time.
Wonderful music from Dhrupad. On some days (like today), this is my favorite Mani Kaul film.
An interview with cinematographer Navroze Contractor. Here he speaks about Mani Kaul and the his process of filmmaking.
Contractor was the DoP for his feature film Duvidha.
Now I need to get around to his work.
great stuff here