I’m very pleased to announce that my second book, Nainsukh, the Film, has been published by the Museum Rietberg Zürich, under its Artibus Asiae imprint, marking its first ever film-related publication. The book is a monographic exploration of Nainsukh (2010), a semi-biographical film on the eponymous eighteenth-century miniature painter, produced by Eberhard Fischer and directed by Amit Dutta.

Partly an art-historical survey of the development of Pahari painting in Northern India and partly a stylistic, thematic and film-historical investigation into Nainsukh, this compact volume is exquisitely designed and illustrated with hundreds of gorgeous paintings, film stills and photographs from the production. It is a companion piece of sorts to my first book, Modernism by Other Means: The Films of Amit Dutta (2021, Lightcube). Why don’t you pick up both?!



Nainsukh of Guler was an eighteenth-century miniature painter from the hills of Northern India. With his patron, the prince Balwant Singh of Jasrota, this master artist created some of the most refined, delicate works of Indian painting, which seem to have been, in the words of art historian B.N. Goswamy, not painted as much as breathed upon paper.

In 2010, Swiss art historian Eberhard Fischer produced a film titled Nainsukh, an experimental biopic based on Goswamy’s writings on the Guler master. Directed by Amit Dutta, this art-historically rigorous, formally playful screen biography brought the painter’s works to life, offering vivid reimaginations of the circumstances of their making.

Nainsukh, the Film: Still Lives, Moving Images delves into this enchanting, singular work located at the confluence of art and film history. With detailed contextual information, the book accompanies the reader through the world of Nainsukh, illuminating the themes, style and genealogy of one of the most sublime cinematic creations of the twenty-first century.



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[The following is a translation of an article by critic and filmmaker Pascale Bodet published in Trafic 95 (September 2015). I’m immensely grateful to Mr. Samuel Bréan for finding me a copy of the article and to Ms. Bodet for her permission and generous support.]

The Golden Bird

Let’s begin with two dreamlike, unsettling fictional films made by Amit Dutta at the Film and Television Institute of India at Pune, the film school he was trained at: Kramasha (To Be Continued, 2007, 22’) and Aadmi Ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniyan (The Man’s Woman and Other Stories, 2009, 78’)[1].

Here’s one of the three stories in Aadmi Ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniyan. Married man Jainath is obsessed with the tattoo of his wife Krishna Bai, who has her own name tattooed on the hand. Jainath wants to cut his wife’s hand off. He wanders around with his friend who jokes (“Till the wrist, or till the shoulder?”), then incites Jainath to scrape the tattoo with a blade, then to attack it with sulphuric acid. In this tale, there are no good spirits to suggest tattooing both names—Krishna Bai’s and Jainath’s—on the same hand. The friend makes increasingly evil suggestions until the moment where Krishna Bai’s name appears, not just on her hand, but on the marital pillow. Noticing this new inscription, we understand that Jainath has let go of his evil spirit (who withdraws out of bitterness) to become his own good spirit. Jainath has another obsession now: he loves his wife; he forces her into embroidery. Independently of its sonic and visual (35mm) beauty, of the charm of its sound effects and of the tropical, diurnal, nocturnal dampness, I remember that the character of the friend/evil spirit renders this tale at once more prosaic (two friends wander about, talk, meet again and separate) and more fantastic (the friend is the evil double of an already malevolent hero).

Now, can we review the viability of cinema as an instrument for the search of truth? Money and human relationships always intervene in filmmaking but technology minimizes their necessity, giving more space and time to the inner journey. Filmmaking becomes more personal, almost intimate. It happens outside the purview of an audience, at least a real audience. No money to be earned, nor much fame. Then what is the reward left to the filmmaker? The answer for me could be: ‘the process’*. The possibility now to live one’s film more profoundly and intimately than ever. The kind of subject one chooses, the reading, learning and thoughts one lives through the making of a film become the most important reason for making it. Cinema becomes a way of searching and learning through culture, history, music, beauty, and eventually truth (?).

*In Kashmir Saivism, some scriptures have the concept of prakriya denoting a prescribed practice (of ritual or meditation), which is the same as the highest knowledge; the path therein is one with the destination. [2]


I am excited to announce that I will be curating a retrospective of Indian filmmaker Amit Dutta at the Bombay Art Society in Mumbai between the 8th and the 10th of December, 2017. The event is organized by Matterden CFC. It is the filmmaker’s largest retrospective to date and features six (!) world premieres. Here is the catalogue I wrote for the programme.  Do drop by for the event if you are in town.  Schedule at this link.