Besides both Bollywood and regional films, India offers a strong tradition for experimental film. Mumbai-based independent writer, film theorist, curator and historian, Amrit Gangar, has been working in the field of cinema in various capacities for over three decades. He has developed and curated programs around Indian Experimental Films, or in his own term Cinema Prayoga, and Gangar will present two Prayoga programmes at the festival.
It was during 'Experimenta 2005' in Mumbai, I thought of creating the new concept of Cinema of Prayoga (or CinemaPrayoga), as an alternative to the generally accepted term 'Experimental Film' and its synonyms, if any. And since then I have presented the concept along with some of the films (both celluloid and digital) by Indian filmmakers, which basically distinguish themselves for their temporal sense, according to my perception and that of many others.
The loosely equivalent word for the English 'experiment' in Sanskrit is prayoga, which has several different connotations, including design, contrivance, device, plan; application, employment (esp. of drugs and magic); use, practice, experiment (opp. Theory), exhibition (of dance), representation (of drama), recitation, delivery; prayogrtha means 'having a sense of prayoga'. If we deconstruct the word Prayoga, we get Pra + Yoga, where the prefix 'pra' in a way becomes a forward looking engine. As a prefix to verbs, it means 'forward', 'forth', 'in front', 'onward', 'before'. In other words, it carries the sense of vanguard. With adjectives, it means 'very', 'excessively', and with nouns, whether derived from verbs or not, it is used in various senses including, commencement; power, intensity, source or origin, completion, perfectness, excellence, purity, etc. depending on what noun it is prefixed to. Among its many interpretations, yoga also means uniting, combination, contact, touch, employment, application, use, charm, spell, incantation, magic, magical art, substance, deep and abstract meditation, concentration of mind, contemplation of Supreme Spirit. Unlike avant-garde, prayoga is a non-military word; it is, in fact, artistic and meditative.
Cinema of Prayoga is a conceptual framework that locates the history of experimental film in India within an ancient history of pre-modern tradition of innovation - of prayoga. A theory of filmic practice, Cinema of Prayoga challenges the dominant forms of filmic expression in contemporary India, including the all-pervading Bollywood or social realism of the Indian New Wave. Cinema of Prayoga celebrates a cinematographic idiom that is deeply located in the polyphony of Indian philosophy and cultural imagination. In fact, it locates itself within kaal (time) in continuum without dissecting it into prchin (ancient or pre-modern), arvchin (modern) or anu-arvchin (post-modern) since the so-called post - prefixes keep shifting in the locus of quintessential time, and space. It employs cinematography to inaugurate anew a conversation with idiosyncratic heterogeneity of Indian traditions. As a radical gesture in the history of Indian cinema, Cinema of Prayoga also attempts to reconfigure the generally accepted notion of the so-called experimental and the avant-garde in Indian cinema by conjuring the term 'Prayoga' from Indian philosophical thought. Amen.