Tara Book’s young filmmaker Arun Wolf on his latest documentary and chronicling cityscapes
It had started out small for Arun Wolf—pottering around Tara Books, the publishing house started by his mother, Gita Wolf, over 20 years ago, helping with marketing and setting up the website. Then, around five years ago, he decided to get more hands-on. Though armed with degrees in literature (from St Xavier’s College) and journalism (Asian School of Journalism), he decided to take up filmmaking. “We work with so many folk and tribal artists, and I realised there are such rich worlds behind their paintings. I felt it would be interesting to start documenting the stories that are behind the books,” says Arun, who recently wrapped up his fifth documentary for Tara, The Cloth of the Mother Goddess. The film, along with the textile book it chronicles, is part of the ongoing Fabric of India exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Starting a dialogue
“The documentary tells the origins of the votive cloth (Mata ni pachedi) and the journey of the book’s artist, Jagdish Chitara, as a block-printer and illustrator. The Vagri tribe of Gujarat, a Dalit community, had started making these block-printed cloths when they were denied entry into temples,” explains the 29-year-old, who picked up the craft by working on projects with Xavier’s alumni, like Saurabh Monga (director of photography of Venezuelan short film, Anfibio, which competed at this year’s Cannes Film Festival).
Armed with a DSLR camera, Arun says he takes along a skeletal crew because he wants to create an intimate setting. “For them, any platform to say something about their work is nice. But they are also tentative because people from metros are not able to relate to them. Since they know us like family and don’t consider us outsiders, they open up more and that helps the process of documentation,” shares the editor-filmmaker, who started out with the documentary Between Memory and Museum in 2010. It started a dialogue on the book (by the same name) and discussed what the artists—from the Gonds and Bhils of central India to the Patuas of West Bengal—felt was the role of a museum in recording anthropological subjects.
Mountains to streets
A fan of documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan’s work, Arun says he consumes a lot of audio visual content. He’s also gearing up for a new project. “We are working with Arthur Flowers, an author and blues singer from Tennessee, who is teaming up with Jagdish to do a retelling of the Brer Rabbit stories. He is a great performer as well, so I’ll be making an audio CD and a film with him,” says Arun, who is also an avid mountaineer and makes it a point to do a trek every year—the latest being in South Tyrol in Italy. He also wants to experiment with subjects in the city. “I’d like to explore Chennai’s light sculptures (displays resembling cut-outs strung together with bead lights and tubelights), explore the processes of people who have skills that aren’t particularly mainstream,” he concludes.
Surya Praphulla Kumar