Thursday, June 18, 2009
‘Memorials for Something’- Making a Documentary on Artists Sanjeev Sinha and Dianne Hagen
Come 27th August 2009, you will have one of the most interesting shows in New Delhi. To be precise, there will be around five interesting projects to which I am involved as a curator, happening back to back in August. The one which I am talking about has a provocative title, ‘Grave for Nothing’ and is by noted artists Sanjeev Sinha and Dianne Hagen. And it is curated by myself and Elizabeth Roger, an American curator currently working from Delhi.
It is too early to talk about the show, though we are ready with it. Here, my intention is to tell you about a documentary that I am directing as a part of the ‘Grave for Nothing’ project. The documentary, which will be formally released on the opening day of the show is titled, ‘Memorials for Something.’
The project, ‘Grave for Nothing’ is a prestigious one undertaken by Delhi’s ‘Arts i’, a flagship organization of Religare Arts Initiative Limited, which formally came into being almost a year back.
Mukesh Panika, Director of Religare Arts Initiative Ltd, Aditya Dhawan, Consultant, Programs and Outreach, Sanjeev Sinha, Dianne Hagen, Elizabeth Roger and myself have been working closely on this project for the last one year. It was our collective idea to have an audio-visual presentation that explains the curious combination of Sanjeev and Dianne working on the same canvases for almost a year.
Sanjeev Sinha, an Indian male artist, Dianne Hagen, a white woman artist from Amsterdam stayed together for almost two years to produce a series of works- painted canvases from where individual identities are vigorously eliminated or contested- and we thought it would be great to have their lives and works together documented to a certain extent.
During one of our regular meetings, I volunteered myself to script and direct a documentary, instead of an informal audio-visual program. Mukesh and Aditya gave me green signal to start the shooting.
Now I am a three documentary old film maker. When I started directing my crew members, Dianne was looking at me with a lot of interest. She asked me whether I had been working with these crew members for a long time. I told her that I met them almost fifteen minutes back. She could not imagine that.
In India it is like that. When I made my first documentary on the veteran artist, Jeram Patel last year, I landed up in Baroda from Mumbai via Kochi, and the producer had provided me with a camera man and light boys who generally recorded marriage ceremonies. They did not have a clue. I could not complaint as it was my first shoot.
That does not mean that I did not have any professional parameters then regarding the quality of the equipments and the professionals who handled them. I had worked with some film makers temporarily and also had attended shoots in professional film studios. But the challenge for me was to get the best result out of the worst conditions. I was successful in it.
For my second documentary I got professionals to work with me. And for ‘Memorials for Something’ too I got professionals arranged by a well known production house in Delhi. The budget for the documentary was not too much so I had to shoot continuously for nine hours to can at least seventy per cent in one day.
We started the shoot by 10 am, somewhat an unearthly time for Sanjeev Sinha who is a complete night person. Dianne had already prepared herself to face the camera. While Sanjeev slipped into his ‘brand’ black jeans and shirt and sipped some whiskey, I started interviewing Dianne.
The first day’s shoot was all about how these two artists met for the first time, how they decided to work together, and what was their working process etc. While Dianne has very accurate answers, Sanjeev has politically loaded ones. He is a peace monger. He spoke aggressively against the imperialist forces, national politicians, corrupt bureaucracy and the arms traders. Dianne substantiated Sanjeev’s points by adding art historical reasons.
On a hot day we shot without a break. I made them to act for camera indoor and outdoor. These are stock footages for embellishing the narrative part of the documentary. Dianne responds to my cues with responsibility. Sanjeev is quirky. If you ask him to walk normally, he would add a lot of romantic touch to that walk.
It was a pleasure to shoot their bedroom, which they called ‘Staff Chamber’. The room is filled with small paintings, souvenirs, graffiti done using spray cans. It gives to you the feeling of a sublimated dungeon. The light is always low there. With an air-conditioner on throughout, that is a welcoming space. Desecration at its heights- that is the definition I could give for this ‘staff chamber.’
Our second day shoot was in Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi, where the Arts i Gallery is located. After canning a lot of establishing shots in CP, I made Sanjeev and Dianne to walk, talk, act, behave etc while many people watched the shooting process with a lot of enthusiasm.
The last leg of shoot was done within the gallery, where I recorded an interview with Mukesh at his well designed ‘transparent’ chamber. He wanted to have a shot against one of the huge portraits photographs by the noted photography artist, Samar Jodha. Then we canned a lot of discussion between the curators, artists and Mukesh. We worked on the display plans and everything was shot.
Hope, this is going to be an interesting documentary that would supplement an interesting show.
(pics by Dianne Hagen)