Interview: Vipin Vijay

‘Aesthetic struggle alone matters’

Print edition : October 18, 2013

Vipin Vijay. Photo: S. Gopakumar

Vipin Vijay is a postgraduate in film-making from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata. He has made several award-winning short films, documentaries and one feature film, Chitra Sutram. Among the films he has made are A Flowering Tree and Palace of the Winds (documentaries) and Video Game (a short film). He lives and works in Kerala. His films have been shown at many international festivals. In conversation with Vipin Vijay.
100 years of Indian Cinema

What is ‘Indian’ about Indian cinema?

I think we have never consciously thought where we belong, but we have this unique quality, as part of an existing tradition, of looking at ourselves from the outside. It is not something supernatural but rather something deeply ingrained in the self. It is reflected in our cinema too. There have been great film-makers in India who have worked on the theme of the meaninglessness of “progress” and “civilisation”. Their works have stood the test of time.

How will you place Indian cinema on the world cinema map?

I find it as a reflected image amidst the numerous mirrors of world cinema. For a lot of cineastes around the world it is still an indefinable vision.

Do you consider yourself a Malayalee film-maker? If so, how does it affect or inspire or limit your work/imagination?

Technologically no, phenomenologically, possibly, yes, where I carry it forward as inner cinema. I try to make a conscious attempt for a dialogue between tradition and self through my works by creating different tangents of conceptual digressions. Through this process, I give myself a chance to be looked upon, and I sometimes fail. But that’s the only possible way out if we want to strive more in the realm of “form”.

How do you look at Malayalam cinema in the national and global contexts?

It seems we need to carry the film ourselves, like the rock of Sisyphus. I wonder if recognition is the only virtue a film-maker can look for! The way all the indifference around affects us, has it something to do with the framework of artistic differentiation we generally apply to judge a person and put him on our list of importance? What I see around me is the new emerging India which is not oppressed and tormented but confident as the outsourcing hub of the world. But for me, it is the time to walk against the tide, which might not even get a mention even from the confident young crowd around me. In these times of global recession, perhaps shallow humanism sells well. But it would be important for us to make headway; that aesthetic struggle is the only virtue.

In my last Malayalam feature film, Chitra Sutram ( The Image Threads), I tried to posit it on an interaction between a human being and probably a computer program capable of throwing up human-like exchanges and illusions. The tenor of the film is the hypothetical paradigm of post-human future, where the established pillars of humanism/humanity are all under the scanner. The film is in the framework of mind-body dissolution issues, proposed by a merger of the consciousness of man and computer programs. I look at these negotiations that I make as a road to alternative consciousness.

How do you connect with Dadasaheb Phalke today?

Phalke could have used the same cinematic tool as Georges Melies used in A Trip to the Moon. But he did not choose to do that. Phalke took the space of the audience into the screen. He gathered the audience inside the frames of his creation. His films are for me the reaffirmation of a mythological past. Cinema when it came to India as an onslaught of colonialism, its larger-than-life representation was itself a myth, a contemporary myth to be appropriated for the Indian masses devoted to cinema. The whole notion of cinema as an individuated art form is under serious question. In that context, the early silent films are of great relevance again after a century.

A revolutionary shift in cinema during our lifetime has been the shift from analogue to digital. How do you think this shift has affected cinematic imagination? How does one confront this digital excess and work towards a counter-aesthetics?

The concept of pure representation still seems a delusion. You still need to hold yourself, to create a real urge in yourself, to see films and also to make films. Otherwise you will lose the myth. One should allow some time to build an organic relationship between oneself and the digital technology. I think we should look into our film-building method, generally, can we provide some space for some sort of “irresponsible light-heartedness” in the case of image-making or meaning-making?

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