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85 mins | Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Gujarati with English subtitles | 2018
Directed by Swati Dandekar
Indigo is not just a colour, it never was… it was wealth, it was mystique, it was colonialism, tyranny and protest. It made history, but itself fell prey to the events and processes of time, until one day it seemed to disappear. As the world begins to demand natural dyes once again, it is back in the spot light. The stubborn dreamers who refused to forget their craft feel vindicated, but the world that once nurtured this difficult and capricious colour is no more. Crafting indigo requires body knowledge and commitment that is at variance with the ever increasing demand dictated by fashions and trends that are themselves ephemeral but expect constancy from the craftsmen.
Traversing between the verdant monsoon of Tamil Nadu, the earthy landscape of springtime Telangana and the wintry desert of Kachchh, Neeli Raag is an attempt to tell the story of indigo as it is practiced in India today. Some of its practitioners are evidently successful and believe in compromise, others quietly confident and proudly quality conscious.
Interwoven with the narratives of the indigo craftsmen is the colour itself in its many moods textures and forms. How does a green leaf yield blue colour? How do the different shades emerge? What is the chemistry that makes this possible? The processes of indigo are almost magical to behold, as murky solutions transform into a vibrant blue, bit by bit. This is a blue that deepens, mesmerises, stains, and seeps into the skin and nails, indeed the lives of those who craft it.
The filmmaker will be present at the screening.
In collaboration with Vikalp Bengaluru
Swati Dandekar is documentary filmmaker and film educator based in Bangalore, India, with a special interest in creating visual narratives of the living history around her; of people, places, ideas, traditions, practices, and the continuous process of change. Her past work is a series of essay films that explore the relationship between place, people, resources and the institutions that govern these. Her film “Water and a City” was widely screened in Indian and abroad, and is part of the curriculum for courses in water management and development studies. In addition, she has been closely involved with designing media for education. As a founder trustee of Vikalp Bengaluru, she has been actively screening documentary films and curating festivals in Bangalore city for over ten years. Swati heads the Film programme at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore.