Sridhar Balasubramaniam from Coimbatore would be travelling with the theatre group Manal Magudi — known for digging deep into ancient forms and using the body as a prominent tool for expression — to document their stories and plays that are unconventional and political.
Can you elaborate on the project for which you have been awarded the Serendipity Arts Foundation grant?
As a theatre artist and photographer, I am travelling with the theatre group Manal Magudi (Rhythms of Land) since 2010. The troupe digs deep into ancient art forms and traditions. And I believe that documenting this kind of rare unique theatrical performances of this troupe is important for the preservation of art in India. Thus, I intend to use this grant on documenting Manal Magudis new performance in a collage film form of photographs and videos.
Documentation will be in three forms: Photo essay, photo story and videography of the complete production. Puppets and masks play a pivotal role throughout the performance and so do materials such as torn clothes, ritualistic tools and tribal instruments.
You have travelled extensively across Tamil Nadu to document rituals and folk culture. How were you drawn towards these themes, considering you are a theatre practitioner first?
It is precisely because I am a theatre practitioner, I was drawn towards it. And also I’m interested in and quite aware of Tamil culture and regional art forms. Therefore, I know the significance of the theme in a contemporary situation. This particular theatre form explores our indigenous body in contemporary political scenario.
What aspects of the relationship between the body and the land are you aiming at highlighting/exploring through your project?
In every land, there are multiple bodies inside everybody there are many many lands. A body is more than a physical appearance or a metaphysical state. It is also a conglomeration of all that had/have lived and existed.What happens when the land is deprived of its body?Or when the body is deprived of the land Memory of the land shines through the body and the land speaks its memory of the body, hazily, in languages known only to one another. I search through my soul, the bond between the body and the land and the innumerable ways in which they become one.
How has the Serendipity Arts Foundation grant aided in fuelling your artistic ambitions?
It is extremely helpful to my theatre documentary project. After getting this grant my thoughts on my work expanded deeply. It’s a great opportunity for me. The fund helps me meet the cost of camera equipment’s, travel expense, editing studio charges, postproduction work and preproduction work.
(Serendipity Arts Festival 2019 is in Goa from December 15 to 22, 2019)