Research initiatives

Dates: 29th June 2011 to 25th July 2011

Aparna Sharma is an Assistant Professor, Department of World Arts and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles. She is  a filmmaker and film theorist. Her research is practice-based and focuses on issues surrounding the representation of cultures. She makes films on communities displaced within the mainstream national imagination of India such as the Indian diaspora and the widows of Vrindavan. She has recently commenced a new documentary project examining the cultural landscapes and folklore of India’s north-eastern state, Assam.
In her films she explores alternate vocabularies for evoking the communities with who she collaborates. Through research and filmmaking she has posited that montage editing provides a critical discourse for documenting non-mainstream and subaltern subjects. Besides documentary, she is  interested in experimental film and the integration of video in live performance.
Her  theoretical concentrations span film and documentary theory, postcolonialism, modernism and ethnography. She has previously taught practical and theoretical courses related to film, globalisation and ethnography. She is  interested in devising a pedagogical approach for teaching critical and self-reflexive video practice.

In her recent visit to Periferry, she looked at Joymoti  and discussed with desire machine collective its significance in the time in which it was made as well as how it got reconstructed and the politics surrounding that.

Joymoti, considered to be the first Assamese feature film was made in 1935 by Jyotiprasad Agarwala. Agarwala, a freedom fighter, was a multifaceted artist with interests spanning cinema, music and architecture. He was a prominent figure of the Assamese cultural renaissance, which underpinned by an anti-imperial sentiment, sought to reclaim and honour Assamese history and culture.

Joymoti surrounds the 17th century Assamese Princess Joymati who was pivotal in the escape of her husband, Prince Gadapani when King Lara Roja was exterminating all princes in the kingdom. She died without revealing any clues about her husband’s location or plans. Across Assam Joymati is honoured as a patriotic figure for her ‘silence’ facilitated Gadapani to eventually become king, ushering in a prosperous reign.

Sharing  her readings of the film with desire machine collective, Aparna contextualised the film and tried to relocate it in the map of world cinema. During her reaserch in Assam she discovered the economic, cultural, political and historical ascepts behind the making of the film. She also visited Tezpur, a town related to the film and its maker Jyotiprasad Agarwala.

She brainstormed ideas with desire machine collective pertaining to how to work on ‘Joymoti’ excavating it as a provocateur for a wider discourse on non-mainstream visual arts practcies that question the nation.


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