The World Premiere of Bay Area Based Chitresh Das Institute (CDI) Kathak short film, “Agni” is Earth Day, April 22, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. PDT. The first video will be followed by a roundtable of questions and answers moderated by India Currents.
The short film is directed and voiced by the filmmaker – Alka Raghuram, choreographed by the artistic director of the CDI – Charlotte moraga, composed by the musician – Alam khan, and shot by the director of photography – Anjali Sundaram.
To purchase tickets for the event, go to ODC Danse website:
Tickets are $ 10 before the day of the event
Don’t miss the event this Thursday!
Here are some glimpses of the film when we spoke to director and producer, Alka Raghuram.
What was the inspiration for making this film?
Before getting to the heart of the matter, I want to give an overview of the context of my association with the Chitresh Das Institute. I had worked with Pandit Chitresh Das for his last performance for a live Kathak Flamenco production called “Yatra”, where I was doing the audiovisual part. Initially, Charlotte wanted to create a live performance called “Mantram” based on Panchabhoota, five basic elements of cosmic creation. Due to pandemics, live performances are not taking place.
We tried to bring out a collaborative effort for “Agni”, the element that brings out the strength or ferocity of fire. Fire is a destructive force but also creates fertile ground for rejuvenation. This film was largely a response to the California wildfires and the social and political wildfires of social injustice in the spring and summer of 2020. The Earth on Fire Perspective and What Our Role Should Be There player. It’s a collaborative effort to tell the story through different mediums. Charlotte tells the story through dance, and I through films, poems, paintings and Alam through music. This is the seed of the plant, that is, the real live show coming in the near future. We’re going to do a bunch of shorts like this in each of the elements.
How is watching this movie different from a live dance performance (seen from the front)?
The projection of a table is generally static. Watching a show as an audience is a whole different experience, but watching a movie is dynamic. I filmed the dancers from different angles so that they could dance differently. It helps viewers to testify as an insider. Even the side wings of the auditorium stage have the same three-dimensional visual effects. We made a creative decision to make this film stand out from that way of looking at a show from the front.
Can you tell us about the poem used in the film?
I wrote the poem to emphasize the environmental aspect of the story. The artistic process is iterative in nature. Your vision evolves and refines as the work progresses. The film’s rough cut was eye-catching and beautiful, but we were missing the hint of the wildfires of the past two years. Which led us to experiment with a text that would complement the visuals and bring out this dimension without sensationalizing it in any way. We wanted the whole piece to be cut from the same fabric
The film’s poem compliments what is already there rather than underlying it. The poem is also here another guilty way of asking who is at fault. The dance and the visuals tell who is at fault, and the verse also says so through the words. It gives the audience a clue as to what’s to come. I recited it too.
Music is one of the critical elements of this production. We did not notice any particular raaga or taala associated with it, like traditional Indian classical representations. Can you tell us about the creation of this unique music?
Alam Khan created the piece of music and Charlotte made the bowls and rhythmic composition. The taal is a complex five-and-a-half-beat taal. Charlotte Moraga notes that it’s like fire, it’s fast, exciting and unpredictable! Alam adds that the music is not based on any particular raga. The music is a continuation of Alam’s contemporary approach by mixing Indian classical instruments with other types of instruments. He has been doing this for many years now and feels his style in this vein continues to grow. We wanted to do something musical off the beaten path for Kathak and push the boundaries of what we’re used to.
Can you tell us about the artwork and paintings used in the film? it is an integral part of this film. Is it digital? Can you tell us a little more?
These are hand painted and I used ink. I’m a painter too, and the idea was to use these paintings projected in the auditorium during the performance. In the film, the backdrop is not that focused. I painted blue woods and redwoods and took pictures of tree bark and fire. I needed to rearrange, layer and layer all of this during editing in a three-dimensional way, telling a vibrant cinematic story. The paintings are also done in such a way as to interpret it holistically, not so specific to a region. I used a blue color tone in all of the paintings. Blue represents the hottest and most intense part of the fire flames. Blue is also the quiet part of it before the fire starts.
What is the concluding message of this production from an environmental point of view? Can you tell our audience a little more?
The film communicates from the point of view of the Earth and talks about who is guilty of it. He asks the question and includes everyone. Towards the end, the dancers look at the spectators and say who is to blame. Then there is smoke and the mouth of the Earth is filled with ash. Earth speaks with sorrow. Then there are ashes in the landscape and the birds disappear. It’s like the lament of the Earth through the poem, the dancer’s expressions and the visuals – Why is this happening? Who is to blame? Our actions are recorded in the time register, the way we have acted so far has brought us to this point. Agni rages and destroys. It got us thinking on the verge of our actions. This film visually takes us on a journey from sparks to raging fire.
Piyali Biswas De is an accomplished exponent of Bharatnatyam and non-classical dance, a well-known guru and choreographer in the Greater Seattle area. When not dancing, Piyali works as a computer scientist in Seattle and spends time with two beautiful girls who seem eager to follow in her footsteps.