Vipin Vijay: India’s Celebrated Avant-Garde Filmmaker

Today, Vipin Vijay turns 42. He is one of the most acclaimed experimental filmmakers from India. But the adulation has been restricted to film festival rounds and niche audience, approval is Kerela born Vijay’s least concern as he continues on his journey of self-exploration as a filmmaker and an artist. Among the films he has made are A Flowering Tree, Palace of the Winds and Video Game.

Vipin Vijay: India’s Celebrated Avant-Garde Filmmaker Vipin Vijay: India’s Celebrated Avant-Garde Filmmaker Source : Mubi

Vijay's cinema escapes the confining walls of genre boxing as he blends experimental, documentary, essay and fiction all into a beautiful work of art which is abstract and intimate. His diploma film Unmathabudham Jagath (The Egotic World) was cited as one among the 10 best experimental Indian films ever made by film critic and author Amrit Gangar.

Vijay said about his passion for filmmaking: "I am making films for myself first. Since they are devoid of any messages of success or any fake sense of safety, they may neither run in theatres nor win awards. But I still want to make them. I am concerned about my truth and I have cast the spell on myself."

Prathibhasam, his third feature film which is about "how one responds to the act of disappearance." Vipin is one of the few filmmakers who refuse to succumb to the lure of mainstream cinema, strictly choosing to work as an experimental artist. His films have even become part of the curriculum in film studies courses in universities across the world which exemplifies the progress he has made as an auteur.

"My earlier films were made at a time when the transition to the digital domain was unfolding in cinema. In fact, I'm reflecting nostalgically about time, my concerns with it. Nowadays, I'm constantly aware of the real issues, notions of spectatorship, the relation between cinema and the ‘uncinematic,' the characteristics of high-definition images... I'm constantly self-introspecting. I've never thought of it as a challenge to experiment with themes and ideas, simply because the morality of my actions and my life is the same. Films are the reflection of your engagement with life. Whenever I have thought of giving up, something happens, some pathological instinct that gets me thinking of cinematic rigour." Vijay said in conversation with Nita Sathyendra for The Hindu.

"I feel that new media has effectively put the viewer in some false sense of security. This has put the lineage of an image into doubt. It is not sharpness any more but resolution that everyone is talking about. But I am sure of one thing. We are unable to create a conceptual discourse when it comes to cinema, and for me that is more tragic. There is a sense of collectiveness in Indian indie cinema but it's in a state of flux. Filmmakers need to talk to each other for engagement within the domain and they need find common ground" Vijay added.

Vijay feels that India's premiere academic institutions have failed to push the Indian art cinema movement because of its confusing priorities. He has said: "Institutions like JNU or FTII, which are supposed to exist as the link between Indian traditional crafts and the winds of modernity that are sweeping the world, seem to have forgotten their fundamental mandate." 

Video Game, Palace of the Winds, Broken Glass, The Image Threads and Venomous Fold are the other films by this alumnus of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkota. In 2003, he received the Charles Wallace Arts Award for research at the British Film Institute (BFI), London.

His films The Egotic World, Razor's Edge, Hawamahal, Video Game, A Flowering Tree, A Perfumed Garden, The Image Threads and Venomous Folds have won Short Tiger Award - Rotterdam; Best Film - Signs Du Nuit, Paris; National Film awards, India (twice); Grand Jury Award MIFF, Golden pearl HIFF; Kerala State Film & TV Award (thrice); Incredible India Award-IFFI; and John Abraham National Awards (named after the acclaimed Kerala director, thrice) among many others.

His films have been widely shown in international film festivals like Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Oberhausen, São Paulo, Nantes, Montreal, Japan, Vladivostok and art museums like Serpentine Gallery, London, Ullens Centre for Contemporary art (UGCA) Beijing, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, two of his works (Kshurasyadhara and Palace of The Winds) have been acquired for permanent archives at the United States Library of Congress. The prestigious Oberhausen International Film Festival, Germany 2015 honoured him with a PROFILE, showcasing his works.

Speaking to The Frontline, Vijay said about his film The Image Threads: "I tried to posit it on an interaction between a human being and probably a computer program capable of throwing up human-like exchanges and illusions. The tenor of the film is the hypothetical paradigm of post-human future, where the established pillars of humanism/humanity are all under the scanner. The film is in the framework of mind-body dissolution issues, proposed by a merger of the consciousness of man and computer programs. I look at these negotiations that I make as a road to alternative consciousness. Cinema when it came to India as an onslaught of colonialism, its larger-than-life representation was itself a myth, a contemporary myth to be appropriated for the Indian masses devoted to cinema. The whole notion of cinema as an individuated art form is under serious question. In that context, the early silent films are of great relevance again after a century."

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