What Time Reflects: In Memory of Mani Kaul, 1944-2011

One of my major influences was the French film maker Robert Bresson. Bresson’s films reflected a particular brand of Christian belief called Jansenism which manifests itself in the way leading characters are acted upon and simply surrender themselves to their fate. I believe that cinema is not so much visual as temporal. But most filmmakers concentrate on the spatio-visual aspect. This has led to certain problems. What time reflects is more contemporary than the arrangement of a set of visuals. I do not want to focus on this visual aspect in my films, but want to make the temporal primary. [Mani Kaul, ‘Interview’, ARC, November 15, 2005]

[Mani Kaul] has been described as a formalist. But the term does not do justice to the intense emotional stories that [reverberate] from the images that make up his interpretations of myth, music and [architecture]—although often they are more like collaborations with those cultural pratices and forms. He defies categorisation: to call his work non-narrative does not account for the detailed and complex narration that his camera work offers within any single scene. Even to call him an Indian film maker does not seem useful since Kaul refuses to locate his work within national or cultural subjectivities. [Ian Iqbal Rashid, ‘Asian and Asian Diaspora Programme’, RUNGH, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1995, p. 36]

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1997968097332260460&hl=en&fs=true

Apologies for the very poor quality of this video;
its inclusion here can only be very insufficiently indicative of the film’s actual brilliance

The Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul, who grew up artistically in India’s subsidized ‘‘parallel cinema’’ (i.e., parallel to commercial cinema) in the 1970s, has worked repeatedly with Indian song traditions, including Dhrupad (1982), which mesmerizes with the sound and image of one classical music performance style designed to facilitate spiritual meditation. Such work highlights the way in which we often take sound for granted as a convenient emotional conductor.
Pat Aufderheide, Documentary Film – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 17

Film Studies For Free was saddened to hear, via film scholar Surbhi Goel, of the death of the great Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul. Last week, it posted a list of links to studies of the works of another legendary director from that country – Ritwik Ghatak, one of Kaul’s most important teachers at the Film and Television Institute of India. But Kaul was a genuinely pioneering and deeply unconventional film artist in his own right who also became a hugely influential teacher and writer on cinema. He will be greatly missed.

Tributes:

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