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Film as an effective medium of holistic learning and skill development Pallavi Khosa (Media Researcher) E.M.R.C, D.A.V.V Indore (M.P.) pallavikhosa@gmail.com Abstract: Cinema is an art. It is the interface between cultural ethos and human expressions. While history aids us to have a holistic purview to the process of our socio-cultural maturity; Cinema is an effective, easy, efficient, and economical, (in terms of scope, accessibility and reach), medium of learning in the current era of technological advancement. The concept and value of cinematic aesthetics hold direct relation with the values of society as because ‘films are reflection of our socio-cultural milieu’/structure’. We carry forward with and choose only those ideas, thoughts or values which befit our requirements at various levels of external as well as internal satisfaction; thereby extracting the best from our past experiences. The art of story telling through films significantly unifies and depicts the philosophy of life through the art of expression. This is done with the aid of motion picture or what we commonly understand by audio/visual presentation. Film carries a suggestion. It is an interpretation, an expression, a depiction or a portrayal. Sometimes it is viewed as a memoir, many times a fiction and even made as a documentary. A film is born out of the creative imaginations of the film maker; many times it is valued as a stark and evident portrayer of society. Hence, films are mirror as well as reflection of social ethos. Cinema is a practice of holistic learning. It is contemplation over expression through various genres. It is a very effective tool of inducing values, creating or even discarding values. It may be used for creating awareness and also imparting knowledge about various historic, social, cultural, economic and numerous subjects. Cinema is an artistically driven, way of imparting quality education by the means of both practice and theorizing. While practice of education in the modern day scenario cannot be restricted to mere reading, writing, arithmetic; the orientation of academics must be driven by inculcating values from a global perspective. The communication with overseas interaction made easy by technology has paved way for a diverse inter social and inter community interactions world over. The values and thoughts shared by people and therefore society have been redefined and have turned out to be common to a huge extend. The art of cinema typify the narrative, builds character to convey various bhavas or expressions. It is the core property of cinema, that expressions are significantly conveyed to accomplish the convenience of cinematic purposefulness. However, the art of film making is as significant, as is the way in which a film must be watched. In this paper, I attempt to define certain universal aesthetic attributes. And if, Hindi Cinema watched from those angles give them aesthetically effective perspective. Aim of the study: The primary aim of the study is to evaluate the scope of cinema as an alternative and effective medium of communication and global learning.


Delimitation: Costumes and set designing, which play a vital role in screenplay and visual aesthetics of the film, shall be evaluated. Scope: The advancement of technology and ‘world wide web’ has been made accessible at every beck and corner. Films thus have evolved as economical and cheap medium of entertainment and information. The reach of cinema to huge masses world wide has brought communication of thoughts and ideas at common and basic levels of human interaction. While different cultures and communities share common platform of communication, there has been a massive trans-border interaction too. As a result, people have started sharing common values in terms of much established socio-cultural compatibility due to technology. People have redefined certain traditional values, discarded some, redefined and invented some new values and in the process of modernization, have even forgotten some values. The purpose of cinematic art of expression is to bring those aesthetic values which are universal in theory and practice. The aesthetic value of women’s role in Indian context is ancient and holds historic significance. Woman, in Indian society have been considered as the epitome of authority –religious or social (jhasi ki rani ). A source of inspiration and the back bone of social structure. Methodology: In the 1964, film Chitralekha, the philosophy of life and love has been questioned and portrayed in Indian stylistic manner. This film has elements of mythology and reflects the traces of ancient, medieval and modern day socio-cultural system. The theme of the film and the aesthetic values incorporated in cinematic compositions are universally spectacled. It is universal in context to the portrayal of core sentiments, and expression of emotional values, pertaining to philosophy of life, experience world wide by man. The essential angles of viewing a motion picture, has certain basic parameters of aesthetic that needs to be considered, to make the art work beautiful in terms of subjectivity(visual beauty) as well as utility. In this paper, the costume and set designing portrayed shall be studied, which is a reflection to cultural history of India. The scope of film studies as a new school or system of learning hub shall be considered. Background to costume: Culture’s unique attributes are emphasized through costumes. For e.g. an Indian woman wears sari, and a Japanese woman wears a kimono or a Scotsman wears a kilt. The costumes prominently are utilized in theatres, plays, and films by actors to portray characters' age, gender role, profession, social class, personality, ethnicity, and even information about the historical period/era, geographic location and time of day, as well as the season or weather of the theatrical performance. However to the spectators of performing art, costume acts as an identification and visual proof/conformation to cultural ethos. However as the customs of social set ups have seen constant changes and modifications, so has fashion too evolved. For example- Kimono; traditional Japanese attire has been redesigned and is now worn by young girls as kaftans or designer cauls tops. It is assumed that this pattern which was followed in China, Tibet, Korea, and


Ladakh has evolved from central Asia to India in a stylistic manner, redefined into present day designer kaftans or ponchos. It is addition and subtraction of certain elements in classic styles for example Salwar Kameez, Kurta Pyajama or the bush shirts that are given different looks with a little bit of variations. Sometimes it is a Patialia Salwar, a Dhoti Salwar, Afgani Salwar. The much popular garments like Bustiers, and Sarongs which are worn by several actresses, can be seen depicted in ancient monuments of India like Ajanta. In the Hindi movies like Chitralekha and Asoka, the costumes and accessories worn, reflect Mauryan- Sunga period. We thus carry forward the legacy of our heritage and modify the elements through innovative ideas that give a new look to the old style. The film depicts the time period and reign of Chandragupta Maurya, (ruled c. 320 BCE, – 298 BCE) who was the founder of the Maurya Empire. (1) He succeeded in conquering most of the Indian subcontinent and is considered the first unifier of India as well as its first genuine emperor. (2)In fact, it is generally thought that Chandragupta married Seleucus's daughter, or a Greek Macedonian princess, a gift from Seleucus to formalize an alliance. (3)The Mauryan court had about it, a strong foreign flavour, with its foreign inmates wearing wearing their own costume and with it’s highly Persianzed ceremonial, which the king adopted. (4) The Mauryan period is the first fully documented period as regards costume, as there is archeological evidence in the stupas at Barhut and Sanchi and a few remarkable peaces of sculptures at other sites. (5)All these are large standing figures with detailed costume, jewellery, and headgears. We learn that the states around Indus since early times had been the melting pot for foreign influences and ideas merging and percolating into India. Trade between northwest India and West Asia was strengthened by the route made by Alexander’s/ soldiers from Greece through Iran to India. Later, when Chandragupta Maurya extended his dominion over the north-west states, his court had a strong impact of Persian lifestyle. (6) The costumes describe and redefine the legacy inherited due to cultural amalgamation as trans- border interactions and trade occurred in those times. There are similarities in the basics of costume designing, draping and pattern making of Mauryan period to the present day costumes. However the aesthetics of these costumes have been affected due to evolution in society from ancient times. The changes could have been traced with the change in lifestyles, cross cultural influences, social, political and more so, economic reasons. But, the common medium of using woven textiles and draping them around body as dhotis, sarees and ‘dupatta/ odni’ remains much similar patterns which was earlier called as ‘Antariya’ and ‘Utariya’. The patterns are progressive in nature in terms to the means and scope of fashion so as to come up distinctively as an interface between the periods of ancient historic times (Mauryan period-321-72B.C) with that of the technologically operational days of 21st century. Very significantly, the stylistic way of dressing and pattern making that has developed and simultaneously evolved to become more typified and apt for current circumstances have been scientifically evolved. However, they bespeak not only social set ups or cultural trends, they are ready reference to the values, lifestyles, demographic conditions, economic viability and define the cultural trends of the time and period. In this film Chitralekha, has dominated the essence of fashion in terms of its purposefulness. It is essential to point the historic value of costumes depicted in Chitralekha which is a proof of credibility and accountability, in the process of cultural resurrection and sociological


evolution from time to time. The potential of costume as a terminologically tested cultural interface is such that it depicts the aesthetics driven out of a cultural milieu. The abstract and probably the most sophisticated form of attire is the Ardhanarisvara, which has roots in Indian mythological reference. Here, right half part of the body is clad in a tiger skin and left half is very finely draped and ornamented. In Raghuvamsa 16.43. Kalidasa mentions – “athasya ratnagrathi tottariyam ekantapandustanalambiharam, nissvasaharya msukam ajagama gharmah priya vesam ivopadeshtum,” how summers came in its rigour to give the beloveds of the prince lessons on the modes of dress, where the upper garments were delicately interwoven with jewels, pearl necklaces, and pendent on ever so pale breasts and the silken garments so fine, that they could be blown away even with the slightest breaths. Though the concept of costuming dealt with covering parts of body, however the dresses played a vital role in estimating and projecting people from different classes, trades, vocations, and stages of life and different aspects of mind. Ancient Indian costume is a great theme, establishing the ethics and role of aesthetics. Geographic, racial and climatic factors have had a great influence on history of India as well as the costumes people wore. Tribes migrated to India through north - west, which was the only way to enter India through land. Allowing India to retain its culture for a long time as changes occurred slowly and gradually. (7) Costume apart from having quintessential utility also provides a diaspora to visual descriptions of several culturally significant essentialities to nature and philosophy of human kind. The two main sources from which historical reconstruction of costume can be made are literary and archeological. To prevent from vague or exaggerated descriptions of cloth that might lead to confusing hypothesis, I base most of the evidences on archeological remains rather than literary descriptions. Explanation to reenactment and deviation in the recasting of visual history: Mauryan period of 321-72 B.C and Kamal Amrohi’s 1964 film Chitralekha: Drapery: Women continued to wear majorly three unstiched garments, as in the Vedic times, comprising the Antariya(lower garment), and uttariya(upper garment). Antariya which was the main garment was of white cotton or linen or flowered muslin, sometimes embroidered in gold or precious stones. The antariya was secured at the waist by a sash or Kayabandh tied often in a looped knot at the waist or centre front. This kayabandh could be a simple sash, vethak, one with drum headed knotsat the ends, muraja, or a very elaborate band of embroidery, flat and ribbon shaped called pattika. A many- stringed one was called kalabuka. The third item of clothing was another length of material, usually fine cotton, very rarely silk, which was utilized as a long scarf to drape the top half of the body and was called Uttariya. During this period cotton, silk, jute, linen wool were readily available in this period. There were also fine muslins that were often embroidered in purple and gold.(8) Women tied their antariya in different ways. Originally opaque, it later became more and more transparent. In the film too, semi see-through effect of clothes is created by way of using net,.slithering effect of costume is achieved by silks and satins.


A simple small antariya or strip of cloth, langoti, was attached to the kayabandh, at centre front, and then passed between the legs, and tucked in at the back. A longer version of the antariya was knee length which was first wrapped around and was tied or secured around the waist. The longer end is thus pleated and tucked into the front, and the shorter end finally drawn between the legs, in kachcha style, and tucked into the waist into the back. The uttariya of upper class women were generally of thin material decorated with elaborated borders and quite often worn as head coverings. In addition they wore a patka, which was a decorative piece of cloth attached to the kayabandh in front by tucking one end in at the waist. Unstitched garments to stitched garments- a visual contrast depicted in film: Phrygian women, who served at the king Chndragupta Maurya as his bodyguards, wore long sleeved tunic with tight fitting trousers. (9) All though the unstitched garments of antariya and uttariya is seen in the film worn by the dasis/ maids, however stitched blouses of 19th century dress making is majorly worn by the leading actresses. It can be assumed that while Phrygian women who wore fitted garments, and must be acquainted with the garment stitching techniques. The upper class women too, must have adopted and borrowed a more refined and modest way of dressing, uttariya. The sculptures at Sachi and Bahrut bespeak the bold, exotic and rich jewellery men and women of Mauryan period wore. Earlier it had massive quality and the workman ship was some what coarse. It still has resemblance with the brass ornaments of aboriginal tribes of central India, Madhya Pradesh. Eventually jewelry became more refined, like clothes. Brocades and lustrous fabrics depict economic affluence. Brocade is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in colored silks and with or without gold and silver threads. This fabric was used by the elite. Headgears and hair styles: The heads of women were generally covered with their uttairya. Turbans of decorated cloth were sometimes used by women. These were remarkable head-dresses in which the hair itself was often twisted into a braid, along with a turban cloth. This twisted braid was then arranged in a manner to form a protuberance at the front or the side of the head. In addition, decorative elements like a jeweled brooch or a jhalar (fringe/tassel) could be attached to the turban. Jewellery: In the Arthashastra attributed to Kautilya, and in the sculptures of the period, we find references which show us that the material used most often was gold and precious stones like corals, rubies, sapphires, agates, and crystals. Pearls were available in plenty. Certain ornaments were common to both sexes, like earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets, and embroidered belts. Earrings or karnika were of three types- a simple ring or circle called kundal, a circular disc earring known as dehri, and earrings with a flower- like shape known as karn-phul. The amulets, attached within the bead or chain necklace was attached, which was


considered for warding off evil forces. Hence, this pattern of necklaces is widely traceable in archeological evidences. There is no record of nose ring in this period. (10) Forehead ornaments of women were quite common, and were worn below the parting of the head and at the center of the forehead. They wore serpentine armlets and anklets. Nag on shoulder pads have been used as accessory in the film. (11) Conclusion: The culture of art professes naïve attempt to progress. The attempt of an art practitioner is to evolve through the traditions of art. Chitralekha is an artistic representation and corroboration of historical facts. Director has caste the civilizational expression in his film Chitralekha. In corporation of symbols and elements, an architectural detail has enhanced the archaic character of the film. He has been able to enact the spiritual philosophy rooted through physical to Meta physical. He has meticulously arranged the backdrop of his set designing, into his film bearing Buddhist monuments like, Sanchi gateway Toran (entrance gate ways), high relief figural drawings, and floral decorative motifs. He has used shapes to invoke impact of cultural legacy, rather than the actual contents in the monuments. Symbols like lotus, naga/snake have been used on the set/walls to mark an impact of those times as defined in the social content of Indian mythology. He has sparked the typical cultural ambience in the sets. No doubt, he has recreated the typical cultural backdrop, and the essence of Mauryan period, yet contemporarily and minor deviations from the original expression have crept in like usage of nose pin, stitched garments and imaginary romantic visual compositions depicted through female figures stands a testimony to this fact. The art work is either a discovery or a practice in recasting or reestablishing an old idea. The film Chitralekha is an amalgamation of director’s vision to re create historic ambience of Mauryan period in the second half of 20th century, and discover the essence of history. Visual art is suggestive means to cultural phenomenon. The property of cinema is to cultivate a method of expression, as well as to serve in a social system of diversified nature, unify them as well as become an interface between historic values and that of present day traditions. History has been projected. Historic theme has been redesigned. The artist has created an ambience to portray certain values, beliefs and ideologies of a period and social set up through cinematic endeavors/vision. He has strived to accomplish portrayal of ancient Indian values on the cinematic canvas, to achieve panoramic visual glance to the aesthetics of ancient Indian ethos. He has incorporated, while also extracted the similarities of 2500 year old traditions of Indian civilization. What is significantly dealt on the cinematic front is the purposefulness of Indian philosophy from time to time which has been highlighted. The Indian way of life is visually supported by the costumes. Costume acts as a cultural interface in this film. While India been a melting pot of varied religions and diverse customs, the foreign influence like that of Persian, Mughals, Greeko-Roman has been traced in the costumes from time to time. Costumes have evolved with the passage of time. Draping of unstitched garments are now been used as stitched draperies, for example in the form of


sari. Innovation in costume has been throughout welcomed and costume portrays the eventual evolution from barbarism, to more sophisticated. Chitralekha acts as a speech to the mention of Mauryan period in Vedic texts and literature at the same time; motion to the archeological evidences of sculptures at sites of Barhut and Sachi. The elaborate, lavish and colossal sets and ancient costumes is greatly achieved and depicted in the film. The medium of films can be used for an effective medium of skill development and holistic learning. Keywords: Alternative learning, Films, Aesthetic Values, Intercultural Interaction, Costume. References: 1. Mookerji,Radha Kumud. Chandragupta Maurya and his times, 4th ed. (1966), p.40. ISBN 81-208-0405-8; 81-208-0433-3. 2. Hermann, Kulke; Dietmar Rothermund, (1998) [1986]. A History of India (Third ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 59. ISBN 0-415-15481-2. 3. Roger, Boesche (January 2003). "Kautilya's Arthaśāstra on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India". The Journal of Military History 67 (1): 9–37. ISSN 0899-3718. Vincent A. Smith (1998). Asoka. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 8120613031. 4. Roshen Alkazi, Ancient Indian Costume, Art Heritage Books, pg 20. 5. John Marshall, "An Historical and Artistic Description of Sanchi", from A Guide to Sanchi, citing p. 11. Calcutta: Superintendent, Government Printing (1918). Pp. 7-29 on line, Project South Asia. 6. Roshen Alkazi, Ancient Indian Costume, Art Heritage Books, pg 16. 7. North-western India was isolated from the rest of the country, being part of the

Persian Achaemenid empire, as Cyrus, king of Persia, had annexed the states of Kamboja and Gandhara and most of the trans- Indus region in 530 B.C. Indians proved mercenaries for the Persian armies, and are described by Herodotus as wearing cotton clothes and armed with reed bows, spears, and iron-tipped cane arrows.(since Post Vedic period(600-323 B.C), Roshen Alkazi, Ancient Indian Costume, Art Heritage Books, pg .15 ). 8. Roshen Alkazi, Ancient Indian Costume, Art Heritage Books,pg. 25 Note:Magesthenies a Greek ambassador to this court writes, that “Chandragupta was surrounded by a bodyguard of women who cooked his food, served his wine, and when he became weary carried him to sleep with Indian music.” These Phrygian women were possibly Greek girls, who were often imported. 9. Roshen Alkazi, Ancient Indian Costume, Art Heritage Books,pg. Pg.20. 10. Cary, M.; Scullard, H. H., A History of Rome. Page 28. 3rd Ed. 1979. ISBN 0312383959. 11. Roshen Alkazi, Ancient Indian Costume, Art Heritage Books, pg.23. 12. A.L Basham, The wonder that was India. London, 1955.

Film as an effective medium of holistic learning  

cinema as a practice for holistic learning

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