Fwd: Re: Archive (21) Kamal Swaroop: Crowds & Power
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AR: Continuing on the theme of afterlives, it is really my extreme pleasure to welcome to you and to all of us Kamal Swaroop. I suddenly realized Kamal that afterlives is central to your idea of working right?
KS: Ghandhi is also...
AR: No we'll come to Gandhi...
KS: ... resurrection...
AR: Its a resurrection. But Om Darbadar is also about...
AR: Kamal Swaroop is a film maker who actually has now developed almost cult like status amongst independent film makers in India having been avowedly an influence on the huge number of younger film makers who are now making names in the film industries. His Om Dardabar which became a cult film, probably (one of) the most watched independent films in modern Indian history - was actually made possible primarily because I think of its availability in social media and before that within a kind of a subterranean sort of an access route for films of his kind.
AR: We are tracking a really interesting subterranean history here. 2 years ago Kamal Swaroop made a film called the Battle of Banaras which is an extraordinary documentary about the present prime minister of India Narendra Modi fighting an election campaign that is the national election in the city of Banaras and being taken on in a David and Goliath kind of way by Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party. The battle that took place in the city of Banaras was of epic proportions, and Kamal has made a documentary on this. This documentary unfortunately was never really properly screened, partly because it ran probably predictably in a sense into censorship trouble because of its portrayal of a man who would then go on to be the prime minister of India.
AR: But Kamal was interested in making this work in a rather strange route. He has been working with Elias Canetti's idea of crowds and power. The idea of crowds and how crowds work is something that he has been very fascinated by. In the process of exploring this, something else has emerged in Kamal's work and career, which is something that very few people who know Kamal actually know about, or if they know about it, its not something they consider terribly important. Richard Attenborough in 1980... '80-'81, made a film called Gandhi which I am sure is very well known to all of you, which went out to win the Oscars and all of that. It was an extremely controversial production in India. But at the time when it was made, it was made with the full backing of the Indian state as a kind of authorized biographical of Gandhi himself.
AR: In the process of doing that, this particular film which worked within an epic tradition mobilized an enormous number of crowds in many different contexts. And Kamal was amongst other things working as one of the assistant directors in Gandhi and was in-charge of those crowds. As a result of being in-charge of those crowds Kamal actually encountered for the first time an aesthetic practice involving crowds and how must they must work. And now come a curious kind of a legacy if you like from Attenborough in Gandhi and the crowds in that, to their afterlife in the sorts of crowds that come together in Banaras. So this is actually really about the crowds and power, about Canetti, and once again about another kind of an archival legacy. I wanted to show you a couple of clips from Attenborough's film... the funeral... we'll come to that.
KS: What I want to say is that.... that here we are talking about the archive, and then you have an image and you discern that image. I am more interested when I teach mis en scene in the film school - so you have a frame where there's sudden mis en scene. But I am very interested in what is the production of the image. So, outside the frame what kind of a management or a mis en scene is taking place in the production of it - of that image. And how the forces will converge so that this mis en scene takes place, or it appears.
KS: So, this is a kind of thing in say I mean... I'll explain how it happens in Gandhi. The other, in the Battle of Banaras, since we are inside of the frame - the makers I mean the film maker or a camera - and the almost invisible crowd within that and we are recording it. So, that is like we are actually a mis en scene and the production of our mis en scene is outside of us. Which is what we are actually recording. Its a very complex kind of a thing you know. And so,... this difference. And in a crowd its a frameless crowd, you know, like an open crowd, means there is closed crowds and the open crowds. Here in the Battle of Banaras we are dealing with the open crowds. So, how do you frame an open crowd? Because once you frame it, it becomes a closed crowd. So, that is the kind of challenge we are taking. And these two aspects we will talk....
AR: I want to mention an sside, something slightly curious, embarrassing and funny that happened... which is that Kamal said let's do Attenborough's Gandhi and I said what an idea, let's do it, completely sure there was no question that its on indiancine.ma. It turns out that it wasn't. In some complex kind of freudian way we actually didn't have the film on Gandhi - the Gandhi film on indiancine.ma. So, unfortunately, we are actually showing it to you on YouTube.
Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982)
Since then the film was added to indiancine.ma
KS: Making of this crowd, you'll have the horsemen, you'll have these main cast, and you'll have behind them the upper cast - which are say 100 rupees per person. Behind them you'll have 1,500 rupees per person which will be about 5,000 people. And behind that you have about 5 rupees per person, which will be about 10,000 people. Now the total no of crowds is about 1 lakh. So, what they do is that they took a column from say President House to the India Gate, and they made a column which is the road, and they tied a rope along that. And then what happened - they invited the people of Delhi. So, a last column was kept free, empty for the people of Delhi.
KS: So they make passages where the crowd can enter into small lanes, kind of small streams. And they started entering and added into join this big column or river kind of a thing, that street. And once they were stuffed into that, what happened then they closed the rope and there were the horsemen along the rope, so the people couldn't go... the open crowd, its turned into a closed crowd. The relationship between the open crowd and the closed crowd is that the open crowd can keep increasing. But in the closed crowd the number has to stop at one point. Now why this method, that the people couldn't run away after a time? Because you know nobody can walk along the funeral march for... and the funeral march is a speed kind of thing and they have to follow that speed. So they stuffed them so much that they had no choice but to follow that slow funeral march you know. And it was operated like that military level kind of a thing that at what point you will close the ropes. And there are horses in front of the crowd, there are horses behind the crowd, and there are horse along the column of the crowd. They had no choice. They had to follow that funeral march.
KS: Now here everybody is playing with the symbols. And... means... suppose somebody is using the broom, so like invoking the invisible crowd. So they will be invoking the Gandhi. It becomes the invisible ancestor and they will appropriate. Then later Modi also he appropriated jhadu
(broom) of Kejriwal in the Swach Bharat scheme. So, here in the train sequence he is invoking Gandhi. The Gandhi - exact frame - what you see the Gandhi standing at the door of the train. So, how they are invoking this invisible crowd symbols through their action... And how they are invoking the idea of crowd symbols, like the fire as a crowd symbol, or wind as a crowd symbol, or a river as a crowd symbol, or a sea as a crowd symbol. And like they used to say Modi wave or tsunami... So they become the metaphor for the crowd. Like so in one debate they were saying Tsunami... Modi Tsunami. The AAP will say its a destructive force then.
Playing with symbols, Arvind Kejriwal train arrival (Battle of Banaras):
Crowd Sequences in Battle of Banaras:
KS: Here behaviour will be totally different. There are standing crowd, sitting crowd, crowd on the chairs. Now this is a kind of a between the enclosed crowd or the closed crowd, and the open crowd. Because there is a boundary. There are about 3 walls and there is only one open wall. So, the behavior in this crowd... and it won't be a mixed crowd. Means they know the enemy inside this group of the crowd. These are the only AAP sympathisers. But in open crowd the enemy can enter as a crystal(?) crowd and create... change the nature of the crowd. Here is all AAP. Like you see in this crowds there is no motion.
KS: So, you have to compose this part of the... when the crowd is disperses very differently. Most of the elections songs were from the Bollywood songs. We used actually one - Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zingadi Mein Aayen To Baat Ban Jayen
. Even they were using that.
(... paper lotus ...)
Battle of Banaras, descent via helicopter:
KS: Here is when Modi is about to come, that he pushes the security man away. Ah, this is the helicopter. Like he is saying about Chiranjeev that descent... descent of the god. Say they have to come down from the sky, they can't appear on the horizontal level. They have to come down from the sky. So the descent is the most important aspect of the leader appearing. Let it be Mayawati or anybody. This was the... in AAP coming is the only one time he does this train appearance. Otherwise he was also coming down from the helicopters. So, everybody will have a different statue. So he will use Malvia or say Patel. AAP will choose Chandra Shekhar Azaad.
AR: Since we haven't been always fair to all the other participants, but just the same we'd like to allow for a few questions or comments, back and forth with Kamal Swaroop.
Q: That was fantastic. I was wondering about the crowd of the political rally you know. Were there instances of them being paid? And how were these crowds organised? Did you have any experience.
KS: Yes yes. ...like BJP had fantastic networking. So you have small wards. So, they will identify on the map, Banaras map, they identify all the wards. You have the in-charge of that ward, and you can say one cluster, second cluster, they're all numbered and everybody is counted you know, like how many voters are there. So, actually nobody is paid in this... and its a small city so, we know the loyalty of each other. Its not operating on the basis of the masses. First thing is that. Each individual is marked, he's known, through that ward in-charge kind of a thing. So you'll have small small wards, then the bigger groups. Small cluster, bigger groups that kind of a thing you know. And so then the rally will be actually like they will gather at the headquarter kind of place and then they will start moving. And from the other areas, from the other clusters they will join them on the way. Its almost like say they moved in say Dandi march. So you will have one main column moving and then the small streams joining. And then they finally end up where they fill the nomination thing. And how we were doing... we were also like seeing the Banaras map and every morning we'll get a programming of the political parties. And then we'll position ourselves so that the rally will move from this point to this point and so we have to move... we were moving in motor cycles. And you can't communicate in the rally because the wireless and the mobiles they're all jammed. So, its impossible to communicate on the mobile, so it was quite difficult.
AR: I don't really know Canetti's work all that well. There might be others who might actually know that - the kind of different classifications that he creates of crowd categories. But you know this thing about closed crowds and open crowds and what you called crystal crowds which is a third category. I suppose its easy enough to understand a crowd whose attention has been choreographed.
AR: That is to say a crowd that is all paying attention to an event and somebody who's masterminding their attention. So, automatically it'll suggest framing and other possibilities. But a crowd that is actually in a chaotic situation whose attention has not been worked out, which could go in any direction, to say nothing of the third category of a potential mob like situation when actually anything could happen including the possibility of your camera been smashed... would create fundamentally different challenges.
KS: Suddenly something will become bad and they will jump on that... as cannibals. There is a possibility. Like they could have, with that... girl... Thirumal(?). I mean it got controlled but there was a possibility. And later it stared happening between the (?) say and between the AAP. and the... BJP. They stared. But even nobody had that kind of potential to become a mob, except the BJP itself. Like you were saying that it becomes an individual - the mob becomes an individual. And only BJP could have become that individual, or a mob. They already had a kind of a violence, latent, as you know, like reflective of a mob - means, potential. That's how they were scary.
KS: The last day, the... and the AAP people they were moving individually. There were a lot of volunteers come from all over the country. They were staying on their own, their lodges and you will see the AAP guy you know standing on the street, alone. He is not from the party, and he has no support from the party. On his own he is volunteering. Maybe AAP people also didn't know about that... But I wanted to really tell you, the last day we were thinking AAP is really winning, but the last day something happened that... these weavers, they had taken decision like in their community there are 5 Sardars
, chieftans you know, and they had a loyalty with a different political party. But that night they took a decision to vote to... this guy... AAP. And overnight there was a mobilizations, that its a Hindu versus Muslim. So, that journalist who talks about that even Dalit's are Hindu, or even Samajwadis are Hindu... So on the name of the Hindus the Congress, Samajwadi even Mayawati they all join BJP. Overnight. So it was he got 2.5 lakhs total Muslim votes. There was no division in the Muslim votes. And Modi got 5.5 lakhs.
Q: Question or may be you can also talk more in the sense like as a one when... like... people are in the morning going to office... morning hours. So, like in the sense like in time... or there are particular points or situations when a group of people converts into a crowd. And from crowd and then it sort of transforms into a mob. And also in the sense like when someone is becoming part of a group, like there is a mind or a brain of ones...
KS: Ya.... But see the problem is the BJP they had no opposition in terms of the mass. So they had no need to turn into a mob.
Q: Ya... I think its like were you able to as in your frame, able to catch that sort of point when like an individual who's on the... someone who's in the open crowd when this transformation takes place - where you apna dimaag aap chhod dete ho
(you lose your brain) you stop thinking yourself and you're just like captivated by that crowd...
Q: ...don't think that... you yourself are not taking decision on your own behalf. Sort of in hysteria which is around. Those sort of moments.
KS: Ya you mean, you say... the you know he is in the crowd but not part of the crowd... There will be lots of Banarasis you know that you will see so many characters with full on the bhang, they don't give a damn. hey don't give a damn. So, you have like on the Banaras ghat, you have these Sadhus sitting and they're giving gali
(cuss) apne aap Ko bhagwan samajhta hai kya? Yeh woh...
(he thinks he's god or what? This that...). Banarasis are pretty anarchic also that way, and very individualistic. But here it became the you know Hindu versus Muslim. And of course they have to control Muslims, because they are the crafts people and the Hindus are the traders. So somewhere they have to control these prajapatis
or whatever. So they have to keep them in control and keep a constant threat to control them. Its a constant threat.