Capturing the romance of the sea, the fishermen and every breaking wave
Acclaimed Indian film director, screenwriter and film producer Bharatbala Ganapathy is making a short film documentary about the latest live installation by artist Subodh Kerkar at Morjim beach, which captures the everyday lives and ways of fishermen
If you stare at the seashore long enough, you are bound to see poetry in the patterns in the sand. Like the waves that leave a mark on the sand only for it to be wiped away as the next wave crashes again, the sands of time have seen the fisherfolk carry out the same activity again and again since time immemorial. The landscape of Goan beaches and its surroundings have changed but the traditional still ramponkars descend on the white shores at the first break of dawn, ready to heave and push their boats into the sea together. If these boats could tell you stories as they caress and cross the sea, they would tell you about fishermen’s songs, nets loaded with fish and the sweat adding to the salt to the ocean. For artist Dr Subodh Kerkar, these stories of the ocean,as master and muse for fishermen, have been fascinating and inspiring. He spent his childhood walking on the beaches with his artist father, Chandrakant Kerkar. These walks consolidated his relationship with his father and with the ocean. A Konkani poem written by his late sister-in-law, Madhavi Sardesai, about the relationship between salt and the ocean being one irrespective of its size, as well as one by Rabindranath Tagore about how waves write poetry on the sand, have influenced Subodh’s work. Subodh’s work has certainly been poetry on sand. He creates his installations using thousands of mussel shells, pebbles, palm leaves, boats, sand and even fishermen. Through temporary installations on the beaches of Goa, he captures ephemeral poems on the sand, which he then photographs, freezing them in print. The ocean is both inside and outside his works, and he creates large works on the seashore, his latest one being infused with history and human lives. “The ocean waves don’t just leave patterns in the sand, they carve out sculptures. History of civilisation dissolved in oceans,” says Subodh, while explaining how he precipitates that through this project. Through his own personal observations and interactions with the fisherfolk community, many of them being his old patients, Subodh narrates their stories and the bond they share with the ocean. In this new body of work, he explores how the lives of fishermen are inseparably connected to the sea, how their lives are anchored at the seashore. “The ocean is their life itself. For the fisherman, the waves just don’t rise and fall. For him, the ocean breathes. The ocean is the very breath of his life,” says Subodh, who feels his installations erase the boundaries between the creator and the created, the fisherman and the fish, the boat and the boatman, using the magic wand of art. For this installation, the fishermen pose together in various shapes, forming the fishbone, the boat and also performing various seafaring rituals where they walk in a line, akin to a procession and stand along the shoreline to receive the blessings of the vast ocean. While these black and white photographs started receiving praise from all quarters, it caught the eye of acclaimed filmmaker Bharatbala Ganapathy, who spotted this immersive visual at the airport in Goa when he was attending the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Part of IFFI’s steering committee, Bharatbala has been visiting Goa over the last few years, but he was so moved by what he saw in this photograph that he made it a point to include it in his own personal project. Bharatbala is documenting or as he says “uncovering untold stories” throughout the country and this will be one of them. These short films of ten minutes each look at a wide array of what the essence of our country is and for the Goan project, he was looking at documenting contemporary art.“When I first saw it, I felt this was creativity at its simplest form. You do not need to be an art connoisseur to understand it. Anyone can relate to it,” says Bharatbala. Marveling at how each element is interwoven, Bharatbala was mesmerized by the live installation and felt it was artistic, imaginative and that it offered a perspective on the fishermen’s understanding of the sea and how their lives are affected by the sea “I was looking at the timeless relation between man and the ocean. For instance, the imagination and expectation of the fisherwomen, is standing on the shore looking to the sea, as she waits for the fishermen to return with the catch and what follows then. The kind of anticipation these fishermen experience as they are about to head out to the sea, “adds Bharatbala Shot over four days at Morjim beach, Bharatbala says he wants to tell everyday stories of human lives through his poetic interpretation. “It was amazing and an honour to have such a great filmmaker visit us and make a documentary about this installation. The shots from the film are fantastic, “adds Subodh. While the collective pan India project will continue, Bharatbala plans to start releasing these films later this year, perhaps twice a week, and Subodh’s work could be one of those films released. The filmmaker hopes to pique the interest and build the curiosity of his audiences, especially the youngsters.
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