Sanjay Kak Films: a independent film maker's human and political look at India and Indians
Background Sanjay Kak is a documentary filmmaker. His first film series was ethnographic, looking at Indian migrations to different parts of the world in earlier centuries. His recent films are political and pose the citizen against the state. Struggle and alienation are recurring themes.
Observation Sanjay Kak's politically oriented work always takes the point of view of the citizen, in a democratic set up. Though essentially political, even activist, it is leavened by a deep humanity and affection for communities and the particulars of the lives that development, economics and politics threaten to erase. This same human thread runs through his earlier work in Crossings, making it more than distanced ethnography.
Strategy The atmosphere we seek to create on the packaging of these films speaks to their tonality whether it is sympathetic ethnography or political. But it also speaks to the communities as a human presence, not simply as agents of protest or as victims.
Design Crossings studies the anxieties of unbelonging that affect the Indian diaspora all over the world. The design addresses the central theme of distress, arising from a conflict over identity. Fragments of faces and masks echo the immigrants’ predicament, and the DVD set comes together as a paper package—an object that’s come from afar, aged and distressed.
Red Ant Dream looks at the Naxalite groups as they resist the Indian state, as militia but also as tribal forest dwellers. The packaging's visual language is more straightforwardly political, using protest codes. The biting, but oddly tribal drawings of Amitabh Kumar lend a primitive force to the work.
Jashn-e-Azadi (How we Celebrate Freedom) reveals the popular support for Azadi, or an independent Kashmir, in quiet resistance against the oppressive presence of what many Kashmiris see as an 'army of occupation'. Democracy, or the holding of elections is always framed as a sign of normalcy by the government, but this film’s poster and packaging questions its value, and complicates the issue. It’s a bleak scene…
Words on Water turns to look at the Narmada andolan against the dam, and the politics of water and development. The use of TV scan lines eerily captures the effect that the mainstream media have on the complex discourse. The film places a clouded developmental goal like irrigation and water in opposition to human displacement, and asks a question of the notion of development itself.