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Tape 39

Amit Dutta


Jangarh Singh Shyam, an iconic Indian artist from a remote tribal village, committed suicide in a Japanese museum in 2001. I found on an old mini-dv tape, a journey I made in 2008 to his native home, in search of him.

In 2007, Amit Dutta was awarded a scholarship from the India Foundation for the Arts to research Jangarh Singh Shyam, a Gond painter whose works were gaining international acclaim – notably in Les Magiciens de la Terre exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in 1989 – when, in 2001, he committed suicide in a Japanese museum at the age of thirty-eight. This research led to a short film, Jangarh Film One, made in 2008 and focused on what his work had left to posterity among the artists of the tribes in his home state, Madhya Pradesh. Twelve years later, Amit Dutta unearthed the thirty-ninth tape made during his previous location-hunting. This documents a journey in July 2008 from the city of Bhopal to the village of Patangarh, tracing the opposite journey made by Jangarh on the brink of his glory, as if to bring his spirit back home. As the vestiges of a film never made and after maturing for twelve years, these images reveal the intrinsic qualities of a DV medium as evanescent and poignant as the memory of the artist. Dutta takes several scenes from the original tape introduced by a brief description that likens them to a collection of old views or an album of strange landscapes with vivid hues and motifs – a temple lost in a thicket of power lines, a baby alone under a parasol as his mother works in the fields. Sometimes appended to these we see their painterly equivalent in a sort of symbiotic relationship between the video image, painting and the places they evoke.

Antoine Thirion


Amit Dutta

Amit Dutta is a filmmaker based in India. He studied cinema at the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII). His films have won several awards including FIPRESCI at the Oberhausen Film Festival, Gold Mikaldi at Bilbao, Golden Conch at MIFF and four National Awards. Retrospectives of his work have taken place at Oberhausen, Germany; Cinéma du Réel, Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, California.

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