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For centuries, the Indian subcontinent has hosted a rich oral and visual tradition — from the Bhats and Charans reciting the lores and lessons of Ramayana to the grace and grooves of folk dances and performance. My projects revolve around the retelling of mythological narratives from a contemporary perspective, where I consciously choose to work with Ambrotypes in series one and silver gelatin prints series 2. By making this choice, I not only revisit the socio-cultural past but also bridge the past with the present. In this project, I’ve been collaborating with two groups — theatre actors for the Ambrotype plates and chhau dancers for the silver gelatin prints.

A unique medley of these traditions comes in the form of Purulia Chhau Dance, where the rhythmic movements depict an intricate narrative of Ramayana. Chhau, an abstraction from Sanskrit root of Chhaya (shadow, masked) or Chhadm (disguise) is an elaborative dance from regions of West Bengal, with stylistic differences in Odisha and Jharkhand as well.

Keeping the egalitarian spirit of social harmony, Chhau Dance performances are witnessed by various socio-economic masses, each social collective being enriched with what they are experiencing, rather than merely seeing. Though traditionally an all-male performance, my art project takes into account the nuances of characters and includes both male and female performers, for the roles of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, and Ravana.

Much like the oral traditions of Ramayana which took on local flavors and nuances of the tellers, my project is also planned as a series of 25 glass plates in an open for interpretation narrative. These glass plates intend to reframe many narratives while commenting upon existing notions. The narrative or the myth of Ramayana was historically disseminated primarily through oral traditions and secondarily through performative acts. Socially all these performative acts; in forms of street or stage plays has been an integral part of our cultural milieu. The performer in such acts whether in real or reel space has the power and potential to transform the identity of the familiar character. Along with the different existing documented narratives of Ramayana, this physical transformation while acting also plays an important role with the dialogue, thus such varied gesticulations are framed in the process. The barebones of the epic lay upon the countenance, wherein the viewer, i.e. you, are free to weave in the tapestry in rich detail as you desire and comprehend. The performers create an expressionist skeleton through pose and masks, which enables the viewer to further enrich the story as their interpretations.

MEDIUM: Wet Plate Collodion Glass Plate(Ambrotype) & screen print text on cards

SIZE: Variables

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