Accepted Paper:

Crossing a River, Losing a Self : Retelling an ancient Indian folk tale   


Rajat Nayyar (York University)

Paper short abstract:

The film retells an old Indian folk tale about a guru and his 8 disciples are making a pilgrimage to Kashi (India's holiest city). In order to reach the sacred city, they must cross a treacherous river.

Paper long abstract:

The famous folk tale explores the broader philosophical framework under which the Indian philosophy operates. In order to reach the sacred city of Kashi, one must renounce and surrender him self. Death in Kashi means Moksha (permanent liberation from the cycle of birth and death and union with the Brahman).

The film follows a guru and his 8 disciples who are trying to reach the sacred city. In a subtle tone of humour, the film also highlights the role of gurus and thugs in present days society. Since the film follows an ancient folk tale, but has been made in today's Kashi, the local people are seen carrying on their daily tasks, whilst the actors perform the folk tale. It became a sort of live theatre which was filmed.

The soundscape in the film clearly makes one feel like he in walking around in the city of Varanasi. The dialogues have been recorded keeping in mind the need for surround sound. The film is the first experiment done in order to safeguard such folk tales that are fading away. We have collected many such tales during our field visits in the rural North India. Our young NGO, has been working on safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage of India through the medium of ethnographic films.

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