Ways of Confronting

In Camera – Diaries of a Documentary Cameraman | 79 min. | 2010
CAMERA & DIRECTION: Ranjan Palit
EDITING & SOUND DESIGN: Tarun Bhartiya
SOUND RECORDING: Ranjan Palit, Surjo Deb
SOUND MIX: Julius L Basaiawmoit

The streaming begins and what you witness through Ranjan Palit’s lens is never a linear story. In Camera – Diaries of a Documentary Cameraman places before a viewer, collages—haunting landscapes and lives—from the fault-lines of Indian democracy. What makes Ranjan appear extremely intimate to me is his perseverance—permeating images from Bhiwandi and Bombay to Kashmir and Shillong—coupled with harsh reflectiveness. The terrains are the least homogenous: labour, human displacement, military impunity, poetry, performance, memory …

Throughout the film, there are apprehensions, which appear to be conscious, honest and poignant: when does one stop filming? Does a camera insulate one from reality? Who are you when you record an act of dissent? How closely can one, being an outsider, comprehend resistance? How does the resistance conceive a storyteller—who is all but transient?

In Camera leaves one with a galaxy of agitations. Ranjan is continually striving to comprehend the world around him, without ceasing to doubt his own repertoire. At one level he points: Where does film end and reality begin? Or are they even distinct at all? Towards the end he also asks: Has time now come to tell my story? The collages containing the sharp vagaries are companions to his questions—while they do not offer definitive conclusions at every point, appear to be indispensable to the flux of the interrogation.

The revelations offered are the most luminous too. For Ranjan, Kashmir makes documentary stranger than fiction; there remains a chasm, between the narrator and an affected person, which renders most reportage insufficient; and a very pensive and personal one: looking through a camera is more sincere than looking away. These and many others, along with the never ending anxieties, compile a tableau of explorations, amplifications, conversations—confronting the filmmaker and the world.

I am perhaps doing an unpardonable disservice by describing Ranjan’s work to somebody who has not seen it. Some narrations, and their auteurs, are almost impossible to sketch with precision, and In Camera could offer a distinct glance towards Ranjan’s oeuvre and his ways of seeing. Constancies and uniformities inevitably present in a description only amounts to digressions and betrayals; therefore the only way of reading Ranjan is directly through his films. I cannot review Ranjan Palit: he lives—to quote Arundhati Roy—between hope and impatience.

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Ajin K Thomas Written by:

Ajin K Thomas grew up in Malappuram, Kerala, and currently lives in Bombay.

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