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VES Faculty Screening: Mani Kaul

This evening’s event is part of an ongoing series of presentations by visiting and resident faculty members working in film and video at the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard.


October 19 (Thursday) 7 pm

An Evening with Mani Kaul

A visiting artist this year at Harvard, Mani Kaul was at the forefront of the emergence of a new cinema in India in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His acclaimed first film, Uski Roti (A Day’s Bread) is considered the first formal experiment in Indian cinema. In the singular, visually arresting work he has produced over the past three decades, Kaul has pioneered the blending of documentary and fiction forms and has developed a distinctive cinematic style that remains open to the arts of painting, theater, and music. (Kaul, himself, is an accomplished musician and painter.) His films have been widely screened at major film festivals throughout the world, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Cinema du Réel in Paris. He has been accorded retrospectives at the Centre Georges Pompidou in France and at film festivals in Rotterdam and Pesaro. Next year he will be honored by a complete retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Siddeshwari

Directed by Mani Kaul
India 1989, 35mm, b/w and color, 92 min.
With Mita Vasisth, Ranjana Srivastava, Shravani Mukherjee
Hindi with English subtitles

Based on the life of the legendary singer Siddeshwari Devi (1903–77), India’s leading exponent of the classical thumri tradition, Kaul’s biographic film brilliantly blends fiction with documentary and structures the singer’s life like a piece of thumri music itself. Key moments from her story are interwoven with evocations of the music’s mythic past and the compelling textures of life and death in Benares. As the lyrics of the songs begin to redirect Kaul’s camera eye, extraordinary images are evoked and the film begins to poetically render the ways in which music transfigured the singer’s life. The film ends with footage from Siddeshwari’s only television appearance—a ghostly presence from a distant past accessed through a technology momentarily attuned to the world of her music.

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