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The Wager On Cinema: Screening 1 – ‘Cities of Sleep’

1-The Wager on Cinema


The Sarai Programme invites you to the inaugural screening of the film series titled, The Wager on Cinema.

The series begins with a screening and discussion of Shaunak Sen’s ‘Cities of Sleep’.

The respondents for the film are Nivedita Menon and Aman Sethi.

Date: 12 February, 2016
Time: 5PM (Tea will be served at 04:30PM)
Venue: The Sarai Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 29, Rajpur Road, Civil Lines, Delhi – 110054.

About ‘The Wager on Cinema’:
How do we estimate the value, aesthetic force, and meaning of cinema today? As media experience, technological change has transformed it beyond recognition, its material forms altered by analog and digital video formats, and the modes of circulating, viewing, accessing cinema and making it have expanded exponentially. And yet, the dream and ambition of cinema as we have known it has not dissipated, the desire to congregate audiences to participate in a distinct world of experience, whether to excite, amuse, to move or to solicit reflection and engagement, to bear witness and to mobilize.

For us at Sarai, the wager on cinema carries high stakes. It means renewing a pact with a bid to explore experience, to take film technique as a vehicle of the unexpected, making connections that take us aback, working out strategies to navigate media’s capacity to deceive – to sting the audience as much as expose secretive acts – through a forensic analytics, through ethical calibration, but also playfully, ironically. For us, such a wager also places emphasis on process, how things are done, how techniques are used, what evidence is presented, what judgments are made, how publics are engaged, framing the cinema as an act of research. In this series, Sarai will screen films to shift focus, to conjure up unusual images and sounds, novel techniques and subject matter, and will organise discussions with practitioners, researchers and an interested public to renew our investment in the cinema, to capture what it means in our times.

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Synopsis of ‘Cities of Sleep’:

Cities of Sleep (dir. Shaunak Sen, 77 minutes) takes us into the heady world of insurgent sleeper communities as well as the famous ‘sleep mafia’ in Delhi where just securing a safe sleeping spot often becomes a question of life and death for a large number of people.

The film trails the life of two individuals, Shakeel and Ranjeet. Shakeel, a renegade homeless sleeper has for the last 7 years slept in a diverse range of improvised places like subways, under park benches, parking lots, abandoned cars and lately, at areas controlled by the sleep mafia. The film follows his attempts to secure a safe sleeping space just around the time the infamous winter rains of Delhi are due.

Ranjit runs the ‘sleep-cinema’ community in Loha Pul, Delhi, a huge double storey iron bridge straddling the banks of the river Yamuna. A thin strip of land under Loha Pul houses shanty cinemas where over 400 odd homeless come and sleep through the day for a nominal price. The flooding of the river Yamuna poses a threat to the people sleeping there every monsoon.

The film looks not only at the tremendous social and political pressure that sleep exerts on the homeless in the city but is also a philosophical exploration of sleep at large.

Shaunak Sen is a filmmaker and a PhD Candidate in Cinema Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Nivedita Menon is a Professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Seeing like a Feminist’.

Aman Sethi is a journalist and a writer. He is the author of ‘A Free Man – A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi’.