Video Biographies

A project that aims to use the popular mainstream medium of film to share the rich lives and professional histories of important artists through creative biographies in the form of excellently prepared video documentaries. These visual biographies highlight the artiste's contribution to their art forms -experience recalled, demonstrations, articulations of their findings in both theatre and performance - serving not only to document their achievements for archival purposes, but also to offer models for immediate use and exploration, and make them accessible to people looking for ideas in their areas of work.

These video biographies can be viewed at the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre or can be purchased from


Talking Writing: Four Conversations with Mahasweta Devi

A very personal documentary attempting to explore the special relationship that Mahasweta Devi enjoys with the lives that people her writing and the people that fuel her activism. In a series of four conversations with her publisher and friend Naveen Kishore she revisits her life in a travelogue that weaves in and out of her story—a young woman writer trying to make her mark in a male dominated publishing world, coming to age both as a wife and a mother, a relationship with her once-estranged son—and the story of a nation in the throes of a freedom struggle, the realization that freedom is a privilege for the haves while the have-nots merely change masters in their struggle against slavery, the choice to actively oppose all that reeks of injustice, to record through her journalism and her fiction the less-than-human life of the tribals she has spent all her life fighting for, to remember the shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie of the Left . . . and how this amazingly vital tapestry creates the terrain of her writing.

55 mins. Colour. English subtitles
direction and cinematography: Pushan Kripalani
VHS: Rs 650. £ 25. $ 35. NTSC: $ 50


Performing the Goddess
the chapal bhaduri story

Chapal Bhaduri alias Chapal Rani or Queen Chapal, leading lady of Bengal's traditional folk travelling theatre-in-the-round, the Jatra, spent his life playing women. Until history changed tradition and women began to play female roles themselves. Out of work, ageing, he turned to a new livelihood: that of playing Sitala, the dreaded goddess of pox and disease, in dramatized performances of the goddess's sacred saga.

This intimate video biography brings you face to face with a unique individual, reminiscing about the world of Jatra, discussing what it meant to be a woman night after night, talking for the first time of the woman inside his male body, of troubled sexuality, of a long domestic partnership with his older lover, of the essential loneliness of living as a human being on the edges of conventional society - and showing how he metamorphoses into the goddess in order to perform her story. In the process we get a fascinating view of the professional Jatra, an integral part of the people's culture in Bengal.

In-depth interviews, extracts from milestone fragments of Jatra plays, the makeup process that metamorphoses a man into a goddess, and documentation of the play on the goddess, provide you with a rare entry into an unusual world, and a close look at Chapal Bhaduri's life and work.


Colour. 44minutes. VHS PAL

dir:naveen kishore
research and script:
anjum katyal
pushan kripalani

VHS: Rs 650. £ 25. $ 35. NTSC: $ 50