- Tell me more about your interest in Hindi and regional literature and how that influences your art practice?
Muskaan - The reading of various writers, particularly regional literature, enhances my understanding and awareness in relation to my artistic practice. Language, for me, becomes a highly abstract medium, similar to visual art (painting), where a single image can encompass multiple thought processes.
One of my initial projects, Suraaj, was inspired by the book Maila Aanchal. Set during the time of Independence in a small town called Mirganj in Bihar, the novel explores the impact of radio on people, the resulting reactions and controversies, as well as the deeply rooted religious beliefs of the villagers. Through his novel, Phanishwer aimed to capture these incidents, illustrating how the events in a small town reflected the atmosphere of the entire nation.
When Maila Aanchal was published in 1954, it sparked numerous debates, particularly regarding its regional nature. The novel's unique narrative style also demanded a new approach to criticism. While reading the novel, I noticed that there was no central point or main character driving the story. However, I found a strong connection with the novel due to its exploration of social structures, economic conditions, freedom, and the political landscape. These themes align closely with my work, which explores the politics of language, state, and individual identity.
The novel also stands out for its use of the Maithili language in a regional context, which in itself holds political significance. This linguistic choice sets it apart from other Hindi novels of that time. It made me realise that when someone utilises local language or culture, it goes beyond being merely local; it carries multiple meanings and speaks to broader contexts. For instance, the film Panchlait, based on Phanishwer's short story Panchlight, incorporates the term "Petomax," derived from the word "Petromax," to illustrate its connection to the local panchayat (village council). This element strongly resonated with me, as it represents collaboration and the shared experiences of time and space within a community. It highlights the simplicity of the concept, while the word itself carries the weight of history and the politics surrounding space.
In summary, exploring regional literature, such as Maila Aanchal, provides me with valuable insights that inform and enrich my artistic practice, particularly in terms of language politics, societal dynamics, and the interplay of history and culture.