Classical iconic representation makes no effort to grasp the first of a story. Indeed the stories are not starting places. They are pluralized presentations of the dvaita episteme at odds with the theological impulse  The mode of existence of the icon as meaningful, from the point of view not of the scholar but of the culturally competent observer (a vast and many-tiered sprawling space of agency always “after” culture but also its condition of possibility) is something like an unrealized genre painting. The culturally competent (in this sense) may provide some generic narrative dynamic to move the devi and her companions along the steam of “history”.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Moving Devi”

On the same note, Spivak discursively moves the Hindu goddess figure of Devi from the static positions offered in the canonic Sanskrit readings, highlighting that the “culturally competent” or lay observers can paint over or give their renditions to the herstory of devi. It is in these reinscriptions that I find complex interweavings between the putatively passive Sita and the fiery Draupadi resulting in a hybrid figure, an entity of Sati—Sita—Durga—Draupadi. This all-in-one form allows the more folkish renditions, especially as appropriated in the cinematic realm, to suture mythology into the real and reinscribe a feminine aesthetic. In film the nexus of Sita—Draupadi—Devi is integral to imagining the feminine aesthetic. The fluid transactions of narrative have allowed for multiple telllings of Sita on the South Asian subcontinent, sometimes emboldening its feminine aesthetic. Often times cinematic characters that have been carved out of the moral mettle of Sita bristle with righteous anger and articulate themselves like Druapadi or self-conflagrate literally and/or metaphorically like Sati, so that the feminine aesthetic cannot be neatly traced to one goddess only. It is the conglomeration of many aspects of the devi that all bear upon Draupadi’s litigious epic question: “Whom did you lose first?” Female characters, from the earliest days of Indian cinema, navigate through the nebulous brilliance of this question looming at us from antiquity, a question that hints at the multiple losses women bear as part and parcel of their cultural ontology. 

Shreerekha Subramanian, “Whom Did You Lose First, Yourself or Me?”: The Feminine and the Mythic in Indian Cinema (Myth and Violence in the Contemporary Female Text: New Cassandras)


À découvrir … ‪Subarnarekha‬ de Ritwik Ghatak

Inde, 1947, la partition du pays entraîne des mouvements de populations. Déplacé avec sa petite sœur dans un camp de réfugiés Ishwar Chakraborty fait face au quotidien en rêvant d’un futur brillant …

Le musée Guimet projette régulièrement des films dans son auditorium : n’hésitez pas à vous renseignez sur les prochaines séances !


"Have you read the Ramayana?"


"It’s the story of Sita. Janaka was king of Mithila. One day ploughing an empty field, he found a little girl on the ground—Sita. Sita was the daughter of the Earth. One day she went back to the Earth. The Earth opened up to receive her. But that was much later. In between…comes the whole story of the Ramayana."

"I’ll hear the whole story one day."

Reaching out from within

Reaching out from within

Reaching out from within, unnamed waterfall at Ghatshila near Hindusthan Copper Factory

I took this photo on our first day of the trip. This particular site is very close to my home town kolkata, West Bengal, India. Ghatshila is a town in Purbi Singhbhum district in the state of Jharkhand, India. The city is located on the bank of the Subarnarekha River.

Behind the lens:
I took this shot using  my…

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Subarnarekha, The Golden Thread (1965)

A girl and her brother enter a deserted military airstrip – an overgrown concrete and tarmac ruin of a recent but already forgotten war, where rusting fighter planes lie scattered and waiting as if for the return of their dead pilots. The girl traces a path that the cracks in the tarmac make with her steps, into the wind that suddenly blows in a terrifying vision of Kali, the goddess of destruction, who towers over the small child on the desolate airstrip. The girl stands frozen, struck dumb with fear. Her brother rushes in, discovers that the goddess is only a bahurupi, a thin itinerant impostor with a scowl, a set of wooden goddess arms, tinsel weapons and a garland of papier mâché skulls. He asks the impostor angrily who he is and why he must scare children so. The bahurupi-impostor-goddess replies, “I did nothing; she came in the way”.

This fragment of film, the ‘bahurupi in the airstrip’ sequence in Ritwik Ghatak’s Bengali film Subarnarekha (The Golden Thread, 1965), is laden with strange encounters. A terrifying yet banal masquerade interrupts a child’s exploration, a girl crosses the path of a goddess, a military airstrip built in World War II invades a remote corner of Bengal, rust, time and the obstinate fertility of vegetal undergrowth encroach upon and encircle the abandoned airstrip and its forgotten fighter aircraft. Everything comes in the way of everything else. Collisions bring collisions in their wake. The girl, her brother, the goddess, the impostor, the airfield, the aircraft, the undergrowth – all seem to be saying, at once, “I did nothing, she came in the way”.

(Sarai Reader 2005: Bare Acts)

Sunset at Subarnarekh River in Ghatshila

Sunset at Subarnarekh River in Ghatshila

Sunset at Subarnarekha River in Ghatshila

Gold was mined near the origin of the river at a village named Piska near Ranchi. This is why it was named Subarnarekha, meaning “streak of gold”. In ancient times traces of gold were found in the river bed.

Behind the lens:
I took this shot using my tripod, with CPL filters. Yes, I had to bracket the shot to get the entire dynamic range of the scene and…

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