Monday, July 6, 2009

Beginnings of a script

Some new terms and ideas enter this conversation and loose strands of narrative begin to emerge - the relationship between mother and daughter, childhood, adolescence, wifedom and after. The readings are helping me get an understanding of sati as an ideology and as a practice. Simultaneously, i try to understand how this image entered my subconscious and how it affected me as a child. 

koshy, i was trying to work on the second draft of the proposal just to sort things out a little bit more. have been reading some stuff to get back on the track. i'm reading this book called 'On the margins of Hindu Marriage'. it's a compilation of essays and i think has some interesting stuff. i read your paper also and am planning to get lata mani's book. as i'm reading about sati and other things around the project i'm realizing how complex it is. sati itself is a very powerful metaphor and i feel i have to be tactful with it and use it intelligently. the theme of marriage is an essential part of my film. but by this i dont mean that i want to shoot a wedding. also the struggle between two different sets of values is the crux. at some level between modern and traditional as well as urban and rural. so i'm just trying to think of images for these. i have something in mind..... i was planning to shoot three streams of narrative. one being the everyday lives of the women in my family and interviews with them. this will be talking about the transition in their indentity with marriage and their lives as wives etc. also in this i want to explore the mother -daughter relationship and how these so called values are transferred orally in that relationship.the second part being the temple and other things that connect with it.. like the karva chauth. this is still a bit hazy to me, going there and seeing the temple will help as well as readings on the phenomenon.the third part i will fictionalize, this will sketch the character of a young girl as she approaches womanhood and marraige. her exploring her sexuality, her relationship with the mother probably, her take on the wedding. this part will only be images, without talking heads. i have some images for this in mind, i'm still working on the character sketch though.i havent thought about how the three are going to cut with each other.

the daughter's angle may be the best one to start from, a story about her and her mother, the temple, childhood ,growing up, sexuality, love, marriage, wifedom, then return to the concept of sati and its divisive nature as a symbol.....that book sounds promising
one of my questions to you is can the satimata belief be in any way considered somewhat like the yellamma one? this is a personal question and needn't come into the project as yet, i mean - is it good or evil or both to believe in such things? or to put it in more contemporary terms to be not able to escape the influecne of such a powerful figure drawn in one's mind during childhood by elders? (grand)mother/daughter,urban/rural,past/present yes, these are defintely the three frames you need to work in

ya.. i personally am most attached to the daughter's angle, but i need a camera desperately to start on that. i'm trying to arrange for one these days. because i have these strange images in my head for this part that i want to try shooting. but i dont know how to articulate these images... there is no story in them.. just a mood. i want to write them down because surely i will forget otherwise. just dont know how to start.i dont exaclty know it's position in our family. strangely, i think it is like yellama in a lot of ways. yellama's sacrificial nature is similar to sati's in a different context. but that can't be practised anymore because it's banned. also, people as in yellama have a strong faith in its power to protect their families. also from the book margins of marriage i know that these temples and their goddeses are know to have the capacity to curse if insulted in any sense. even my family strongly believes in this. in fact there is a story that goes with it. one is supposed to take some very specific things for her pooja and one of them is sweet homemade crackers. once a family went to celebrate the birth of a newly born son and by mistake happened to take salty crackers. nonetheless, the family finished the pooja and came back home. the newly born started developing a weird disease in which his bones became brittle and he would get multiple fractures for no rhyme or reason. the doctors couldn't fathom what was happening and they gave up on him. later someone in the family realized that at the time of his birth so and so had happened at the sati temple. so the family went again with sweet crackers and did the pooja. the boy was cured in no time and things went back to being normal.there are lots of other stories similiar to this about the power of the temple and the goddess on the family. also another thing, some women are considered very lucky for the whole household and the family prospers with them. and their death results in the downfall of the family. like my great grandmom was really beautiful and lucky and so the family was so prosperous that they almost owned the whole town in her times. but after her death all the brothers seperated, lots of money was wasted, the business wasn't that successful, so on and so forth. although i'm not sure if this has anything to do with the temple.about the temple, i definitely don't agree with the ideology that forms its foundation. at the same time i don't want to be a skeptic. as in i believe in the power of faith and it runs very strong in this case. i dont know what the faith is in exactly but there is something that the whole family believes in collectively and very strongly. i dont know how to bring in this are right - is it both good and evil to believe in such things?
from the book -"from the religious perspective, the death of the body does not take place until the indissoluble spirit (atman) is released through the purification of the cremation fire. the wife does not become a widow until her husband is cremated. by joining him on the pyre she dies together with him as his 'half body', bypassing the status of widowhood and avoiding the ritual contamination and social marginality it would bring on her and those around her. the display of devotion releases a surplus of religious merit, which the sati distributes to her kin and community at the time of her death and afterword in the form of her continuing presence as a beneficent ancestress to her lineage. subsequent generations of her lineage appeal to her for protection, as she had protected her husband in the transition from one cosmological plane to another. this is the place where the hindu construction of marriage, body and dharma wrings itself out. and the wife, the sati, becomes the vehicle for it. she is the field of battle for this internal conflict of the tradition. from the perspective of the logic of hindusim as a system, the perfection of pativratadharma, the sati is its embodied substance. she is the context or form in which the normative religious world and the existential moment converge in an act that is at one and the same time one of annihilation and deification. hence, she takes on a supernatural persona. she walks calmly to the pyre, whereas ordinary people would shrink in terror. she dispenses blessing on those who venerate her and invokes curses on those who resist a person, she is the victim, the one wrung out of the system, the one who is backed into the corner of choosing between a death of life in the fire or a life of social and ritual death as a widow. this double bind gives sati its religious character, its emotive power and its moral dissonance. as a sacrifical act it carries within it the burden of the validity of the religious world from which it takes its definition."
also as a place of worship this temple is considered as a secure and legitimate zone for women devotees to assemble in order to draw from the strengths of the charismatic presence of the satimata to carry out their own efforts at pativratadharma.have u read lata mani's book? do you think i should get it? i'm not sure how useful it'll be.. it seems more about the politics behind the banning of sati. i'm not particularly interested in that.

no i dont want you to read lata mani's book, i want you to keep writing to me.
the reason is - when you write as you said you put it down and then it can be used and you articulate those images that you feel cannot be articulated. this part of it is extremely important. it needn't even be to me but in a notebook but i've found it helps to have a person to bounce your ideas off. do whatever works for you\these letters are important as formulations\i'm really pleased with the direction this is going in i feel the quuote you have sent me is the essence the crux of the whole thing, the idea of the pativrata, i mean is both evil and good, and how can you bring that out effectively for the twenty first century ? the earlier stories you said of sweet/salty crackers and deity curse won't work becasue they are only anthropomorphisms that make one want to fight the faith, if you get what i mean, but the collective belief idea and that of protection and women being a blesing -these are modern and surpirisingly so for me the whole point hangs around what story you will tell so the idea(l) of satimata comes through in a twenty first century context and how you will tell it
in this ocntext your non-articulatable(?) images need to be artic(ulate)d and the talking heads section sounds interesting - or should it be talking torsos
i remember what you said earlier -the image of a woman on fire -that is a powerful theme/image. symbol.metaphor .peg
how can we build on that -also the daughter -get that bloody camera and start shooting as quickly as possible

what do you mean when you say that the collective belief of protection and the women being a blessing is a modern idea?this story being situated in the twenty first century INDIA is very important to me. while i was reading some stuff today i was wondering what part does india's colonization at the time when sati was prevalent and rapid change in india due to globalization and liberalization play in this? the 'western influence'... the mother daughter relationship 40 yrs ago is a world apart from the mother daughter relationship today. though i dont think it changed that much or that rapidly before this.i wanted to tell you how this image entered my subconscious. as a young child, my paternal side of the family doesn't believe in this temple and my parents as well aren't that religious so we never had a deity that we believed in strongly. but i had heard about this temple from my mother and my grandmother and i must have gone there once long time back. so i didn't have any direct connection with it though from the name i knew it was connected to 'sati' in some way. my knowledge of sati was limited to it being an activity where a woman burns herself on her husband's pyre. once i asked my grandmom to tell me the story of this woman, who was she, was she connected our family, how did her husband die? she told me that she was a newly married bride and was going to her husband's place after the wedding through the jungle. on the way, the dacoits attacked them and killed her husband. she was looted of her jewellery and other gifts. then they cremated the husband and she became a sati. as a kid i used to watch these vikram betaal stories that came on tv. one of the stories in that is very similar to this one. it has a different ending though, but the first part is the same. i used to love watching these stories and from the first time i saw this particular one my mind just assumed that it was the story of the woman in the temple. maybe i'll use that footage as found footage if need be.

i meant three things are modern - not post modern. collectivisation ,belief in collectivities - is a communist and sixties phenomenon. collective belief - again, faith as more important than what you beleive in, that is a modern idea - and for the individual and the group in the twentieth century life became uncertain - so the need for protection increased. Women being a blessing - feminist idea -again 20th century, anti-patriarchal. mother -daughter - how the relationship has changed -that's psychological and modern -as you said the result of colonization etc. -the idea of found footage is definitely interesting - in fact the film could begin with grandmother -daughter ,then the tv serial beginning if you wanted, the way you have narrated it to me
i mean all this in the western sense - in the light of recent history in the west, in the western sense, some of these ideas about satimata are modern while others are not.

No comments:

Post a Comment