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By Aparna Sharma

This e-book introduces the varied practices of 3 non-canonical practitioners: David MacDougall, wish computing device Collective and Kumar Shahani. It deals research in their documentary equipment and aesthetics, exploring how their oeuvres represent a serious and self-reflexive method of documentary-making in India.

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Spanning an elite institution, the Doon School, on to a shelter for destitute children, MacDougall’s films offer viewers a complex portrait of class dynamics in Indian society. At the heart of MacDougall’s documentaries, I identify a commitment to what he has himself termed ‘deep reflexivity’: revealing the social processes through which documentary meanings are mediated (MacDougall 1998). My study plots the enactment of deep reflexivity in MacDougall’s films and posits that deep reflexivity offers his films’ subjects, here young children with possibilities to comply, contest or exceed the terms by which the institutions to which they belong define them, and rationalize their identities and experiences.

This was an essayistic film that examined photographic practices in the north Indian hill town, Mussoorie. The film spanned varied social strata spanning the English-speaking elites and former provincial royals on to the lower middle classes – all viewed in a range of sites including photographic studios and shooting locations, cemeteries, people’s homes and antique shops. The film wove a rich tapestry of photographic aesthetics registering varied sentiments, narratives and meanings that people deposit on the instance when a camera clicks.

32 Documentary Films in India MacDougall’s ethnographic film project in India: the turn to children’s institutions MacDougall’s ethnographic film project in India began with the highly acclaimed Photo Wallahs (1992). This was an essayistic film that examined photographic practices in the north Indian hill town, Mussoorie. The film spanned varied social strata spanning the English-speaking elites and former provincial royals on to the lower middle classes – all viewed in a range of sites including photographic studios and shooting locations, cemeteries, people’s homes and antique shops.

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