One More Day with Amit Dutta

Amit Dutta’s Nainsukh (2010)

Until noon EDT tomorrow (Tuesday), e-flux is presenting six films by the Indian writer and experimental filmmaker Amit Dutta. Artist Iman Issa, who has organized the program and conducted a six-part interview with Dutta, emphasizes that her selection “in no way offers an exhaustive view of this multi-versed filmmaker’s oeuvre.” The range here extends from a story about an eighth-century architect through explorations of the work of the eighteenth-century miniature painter Nainsukh to a conversation with art critic and historian B. N. Goswamy.

Introducing her interview with Dutta for Bomb Magazine in 2017, filmmaker Shambhavi Kaul wrote that his films “traverse genres, moving effortlessly from crafted scenario to spontaneous encounter, from mindful self-reflexivity to ghostly magic. Art—literature, music, and particularly painting—permeates Dutta’s work. It appears as the subject of his films, yet it is also absorbed into their very material as cinematography and soundscape—as cinema.” In his excellent primer on Dutta’s earlier work, which ran in Cinema Scope in 2014, Max Nelson noted that in Dutta’s films, “artworks are rarely frozen, static things but ceaselessly evolving entities, constantly being made and remade, having their boundaries redrawn, and being conflated, in the eye of the beholder, with the world they represent.”

Writing in the Notebook in 2017, Jonathan Kiefer pointed out that “the syntax of Dutta’s movie language is direct and precise, privileging clarification to the point of incandescence. Camera moves often emphasize wonderment . . . Editing schemes evoke, and evince, mental avidity, oscillating between studiousness and free association. (Another way to describe Dutta’s films is as documentaries on states of mind.) From film to film, Dutta revisits an ensemble of sounds—thunder claps, birdsong, close-range recordings of hand tools at work, pages being turned—and enriches them through rhythmic repositioning. This all has a way of leading us to the optimistic epiphany that postmodernism and folklore might at last discover, or rediscover, a common idiom.”

“One common thematic thread linking the works is an emphasis on storytelling over the story itself,” writes Srikanth Srinivasan in Modernism by Other Means. Srinivasan’s 2020 monograph is “nothing short of an essential aid not only in contextualizing Dutta’s films, but in some cases understanding the absolute basics of what each film communicates, the existing register it is working within or developing upon,” writes Maximilien Luc Proctor at photogénie.

Late in her conversation with Dutta, Issa asks about his focus on the past. “I think it’s the duty of every artist who comes from a colonized country to get in touch with their instincts,” says Dutta. “The idea is not to interpret or celebrate the tradition but to use it to get in touch with our reflexes, the inner layers of our own minds which are made of all this. It’s very important to state that it’s not and should not be a regressive project.”

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