award
Best Film, International Panaroma of Independent Film Makers, Thessaloniki, Greece - October 2002

Opening film at
Outstanding Short Films from International Festivals
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

"The haunting and poignant images in K.M Madhusudhanan's film Atma Chitra (Self Portrait), are a credit to India. In today's climate of Bollywood kitsch he has managed to preserve the true essence of the unseen India through a personal account of one man's existence."
kinofilm - Manchester


SELF PORTRAIT

short fiction film on the life of a street photographer
35mm color :: 2001

A street photographer in Delhi uses the callotype camera, invented by Fox Talbot to make ends meet. He often goes with his policeman-friend to take photographs of the dead for police investigation. He goes through a strange experience when he encounters death.

FESTIVAL SELECTIONS

Uppsala International Short Film Festival (October 2002)
International Short Film Festival in Drama, Greece (September 2002)
Opening film : Busan Asian Short Film Festival, Korea (May 2002)
Tampere International Film Festival, Finland (March 2002)
Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival, France (February 2002)
Chilean International Short Film Festival, Chile (November 2001)
International Short Film Festival, Granada, Spain (April 2002)



Introduction to 'Auto-photography'

chandni chowk
centuries old market
smells of bird shit
horse urine
burning tyres
melting tar
yellow 'jevanthi' flower...
a river
river of rope walkers
footpath traders
flower sellers
sooth sayers

plastic
radio
old books
cheap toys
electric wires
cameras
artificial teeth
violins
undergarments...

at the mouth of chandni chowk, like a gateway, the lal jain mandir. outside this temple, a footpath...

a footpath...
home for beggars, schizophrenics, cameramen.
cameramen, black boxes covered with a black cloth... on rickety tripods...
waiting...
waiting for customers.

across this temple footpath, where the photographers sell their service to the marketeers, smalltime merchants and others who cannot afford to visit slick photo shops, sprawls the majestic red fort...

the red fort
rechewing with bovine inertia
its overbearing past...
the national flag
fluttering on its forehead.

the photographers outside the jain temple use an underdeveloped version of the calotype camera which fox talbot invented in the early days of photography. their quaint technique, which has not seen the dawn of film, and still uses paper as negative to reproduce three coipes for twenty rupees, attracts many an ordinary people even today. kodak express and other new techniques that can make several coipes within minutes, have thrown these dark boxes beyond history, to darkness.

a darkness
where the red light
is never switched on.

history never printed the faces of these photographers. or of the ordinary people that sat in front of their cameras. seeing the black curtain in front of the black box - at once a camera and a dark room - an erudite friend said,

"you know, its depth of field is really limited. after all, it's an old technique, you see... !"

even today, the photographers in chandni chowk are waiting. waiting for the job seeker who needs a passport size photograph, or for the students who seek to imprint their faces on examination forms....

in this film, dc gupta appears as a prototype of the photographer, who henri cartier-bresson once described as a referee in a boxing ring.

dc gupta.
or the character in a novel whose hair greyed overnight....
from which corner of the political map of India,
would his pock-marked face emerge?

which world does he see
through the black box on a rickety tripod... ?

which world does he see?