HomeExperimentation(s): how to define and create a transgressive scene in South Asia?

HomeExperimentation(s): how to define and create a transgressive scene in South Asia?

Experimentation(s): how to define and create a transgressive scene in South Asia?

Expérimentation(s) : comment définir et faire exister une scène transgressive en Asie du Sud ?

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Published on Monday, September 22, 2014


Cette année, le festival du film d'Asie du Sud trangressif #3 explore l'idée d'expérimentation(s) en revenant au cœur même de l'idée fondatrice du festival : transgressif, alternatif, underground, expérimental, indépendant, Prayoga : quel mot pour quel cinéma ?



For three years now, since the Festival du Film d’Asie du Sud Transgressif (FFAST) (Festival of South Asian Transgressive Film) started questioning “norms and transgressions” in various ways. The first overview of things was done at the meeting and discussion day held on the 28th of January 2013, which enabled to introduce the dominant norm of cinematography: Bombay’s popular cinema. Therefore, we can say that transgression is above all a geographical notion. For this reason, we have explored regional variations, as well as surrounding countries such as Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In this first investigation, we noticed that the themes of sex, love and marriage were sources of transgression within a mainstream scene which is both standardised and normative. This observation led to the implementation of the 2014 FFAST workshops: “Industry of hearts, industry of bodies. Love, sexuality and marriage in 21st century India: imaginaries, fantasies and breakups”.

This year we decided to go back to the founding idea of our festival: what word for what kind of cinema? Transgressive, alternative, underground, experimental, independent, Prayoga. In opposition to what, and to who? To Indian cinema when you are a Pakistani film director, or to popular cinema when you are an independent film director? How to define a transgressive film? By its aesthetics, its production company, its distribution channel, or its language?

In order to lead this reflection, the key concept will be the Indian expression Prayoga which has been developed by the film historian Amrit Gangar.

A new concept: the Cinema of Prayoga

Cinema of Prayoga is a conceptual framework that locates the history of experimental film in India within an ancient history of pre-modern tradition of innovation, of prayoga. Cinema of Prayoga is a theory of filmic practice, which challenges the dominant forms of filmic expression in contemporary India, including the all-pervading contemporary Bollywood or the social realism of Indian New Wave. Cinema of Prayoga celebrates a cinematographic idiom that is deeply located in the polyphony of Indian philosophy and cultural imagination. It is an intuitive transformation of cinema to articulate a sensibility that engages with the essence of prāchin of Indian culture, by retrieving its essences of time of space by offering its intrinsic temporality to cinematography. It employs cinematography to inaugurate anew a conversation with idiosyncratic heterogeneity of Indian traditions. Cinema of Prayoga is a radical gesture in the history of Indian cinema. It attempts to reconfigure the generally accepted notion of the experimental and the avant-garde in Indian cinema by conjuring the term ‘Prayoga’ from Indian philosophical thought. Etymologically, the term prayoga in Sanskrit refers to a theory of practice that emphasizes the excessive possibility of any form of contemplation – ritualistic, poetic, mystic, aesthetic, magical, mythical, physical or alchemical. It can be defined as an intensive process of ‘fore-action’ of any practice. In cinema, it is a practice of filmic interrogation that is devised as a quest toward a continuing process in time and space. This is a cinema that involves Indian music, poetry, mythology and performance to examine the relationship between their status as filmic texts and the ‘fictions-in-progress’ of their subjects unlike similar invocation seen in mainstream cinematic formulations anywhere in the world.

Excerpt from Amrit Gangar’s article, “The moving image: Looped, to be Mukt! – the Cinemā Prayōga conscience”.

FFAST et Prayoga

The FFAST was shaped by  three main wishes: first, opening up the stylistic binarisms between independent and popular cinema; second, freeing Indian cinema from the two stereotypes it is tied to in France: films in the same vein as Satyajit Ray and Bollywood productions; Finally, the FFAST tries to explore different types of cinema that go beyond pre-established categories such as avant-garde, independent cinema, experimental cinema or Indian Nouvelle Vague which has been used to qualify the new generation of contemporary film directors.

This desire has been expressed by a term considered provocative, “transgressive”, in order to place cinematographic works back in a creative continuum that goes beyond genre and preconceived theoretical framework.

To answer the questions raised by the use of the term “transgressive” in our festival’s name, we felt the need to elaborate the theoretic foundation which brought us to make this choice, and to go through the issues this word raises.

On our way, we encountered Amrit Gangar and his concept of “Cinema of Prayoga”. In his capacity to rethink and question the frameworks that have been established by Western cinema, we recognise our own questions, and the same desire to put ideas into practice and to experiment. These are key notions of the term Prayoga, and our Festival is trying to incarnate them.

For our third edition, we have invited Amrit Gangar to present his “Cinema of Prayoga” theory of through discussions and a selection of films chosen by him.

We hope to open up as a result a space for dialogue between the ideas of Prayoga and of transgression.

The thematic axes for our call for papers include, but are not limited to:

1. Notions / definitions / translation

In this section, we would like to explore different notions and terms which define different types of South Asian cinema and we would like to ask ourselves which reality they cover. Today, many various types of cinema coexist within the Indian subcontinent.  New typologies appeared and raised a new question: what is the legacy of “independent regional” cinema? How to qualify an alternative cinema which dares, on the one hand, experimenting and, on the other hand, collaborates with big studios?

In cinemas from today and yesterday, how did notions/terms evolve in South Asia and which realities did these cinemas diachronically cover? What different boundaries did they trace throughout history?

2. Space for experimenting: festivals, cinemas, internet

The circumstances in which alternative cinemas emerged and asserted themselves in visual imaginaries question both government structures and private companies. Where can these films exist?

Festivals and retrospectives on experimental cinema are being organised in India while PVR cinemas are implementing a special banner, “Director’s Rare”, to promote another genre of cinema within multiplexes. Moreover, internet has shown to be a source of mass dissemination: distributing films, the NFDC’s initiative “cinemasofindia.com” being an example; and spreading news and resources dedicated to independent cinemas, which is at the heart of the company “dearcinema.com”. How were these different sectors able to contribute to the construction of an alternative voice to Bollywood on the domestic scene?

3. Aesthetics of Prayoga and assimilation of the concept

If the term Prayoga is an alternative concept to the notion of experimentation that has been forged in the West, how can we adopt it and work on it outside South Asia? This section is an invitation to experiment in aesthetic analysis throughout a selection of films from South Asia or elsewhere.

Guidelines submission

Proposals (2500 characters maximum) are to be sent

before November 15th

to helene@ffast.fr and nemesis@ffast.fr along with a short biography and bibliography.

Scientific committee

  • Amrit Gangar (President of the committee, film theorist, curator and historian)
  • Robert Cahen (artist)
  • Kristian Feigelson (sociologist, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle – IRCAV)
  • Hélène Kessous (PhD candidate, Advanced School for Social Sciences – CEIAS)
  • Rossella Ragazzi (media anthropologist, University of Tromsø Museum)
  • Némésis Srour (PhD candidate, Advanced School for Social Sciences – CEIAS)
  • Richard I. Suchenski (Director, Center for Moving Image Arts, Bard College)



  • Paris, France (75)


  • Saturday, November 15, 2014


  • cinéma, Inde, Népal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, expérimental, Prayoga


  • Némésis Srour
    courriel : nemesis [at] ffast [dot] fr
  • Hélène Kessous
    courriel : helene [at] ffast [dot] fr

Information source

  • Programmation FFAST
    courriel : programmation [at] ffast [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Experimentation(s): how to define and create a transgressive scene in South Asia? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, September 22, 2014, https://calenda.org/297099

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