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IN CONVERSATION with RACHEL DAVIES & DANIEL SAUL OF R & D STUDIOS, LONDON

07 December’23 saw a film screening, presentation and a talk with Rachel Davies and Daniel Saul (R&D Studio), London based film artists and their collaborator Hemabharathi Palani, artiste, choreographer and rehearsal Director at Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts. The team  introduced their film project, “Ek Choti si Asha” created in collaboration with choreographer and Attakkalari’s rehearsal director Hemabharathy Palani. It tells an enchanting tale of a symbolic union between a woman and the Moon in matrimony.

1. Could you share insights into the overarching theme or central narrative of the dance film, the story it aims to convey?

A: Our collaboration with Hemabharathy Palani lasted for 3 years and resulted in several different outputs including two films and live performances in Bangalore and the UK. The themes we explored were inspired by TeamIndus and their robotic Moon mission.


TeamIndus was a courageous private company of 100 young people designing a robot to land on the Moon. Together with Hema we thought this was a great metaphor for a woman getting married and moving to her husband’s home. Simply put our synopsis would be: a woman takes a walk on Earth. A robot takes a walk on the Moon.

 

2. Could you shed light on the production process? What were the key elements in the direction and choreography that brought the film's vision to life, balancing the cultural influences and artistic expressions seamlessly? In exploring the thematic depth of the dance film, were there specific cultural motifs, traditions, or social messages that you aimed to highlight? How did these elements contribute to shaping the storyline or thematic essence of the project?

A: The main idea was that Hema moves very slowly, as if she had landed on the moon like ECA the robot. Her pace was to reflect the slowness of a moon day which is 14 times the length of a day on earth.  
The basic principle was to compare a short walk taken by a woman in India with a mile walk by the (female) robot on the moon (the criteria for the Google x prize). 
Dan and Rachel scoped a variety of Bangalore locations to evoke a range of traditional and modern environments for Hema to navigate with her slow walking choreography. 
A further element was to take vocal recordings of description of the robot's perilous journey by the TeamIndus engineers. 
We built the narrative in the edit, also consulting a musician who scored a track to the final film.

 


3. What were the unique challenges or advantages of merging both of your artistic visions with the cultural influences/inputs from India within the film's narrative and choreography?


A: Because we had a parallel narrative Hema had lots of freedom to develop a female character that she embodied in her choreography. Hema used her own lived experience of growing up and living in India to form the character of Chandini. Meanwhile the parallel narrative was a science and engineering story based on detailed interviews with engineers at TeamIndus. The two stories both contrasted with each other and merged into a single vision. This process threw up some unexpected resonances which we tried to enhance.

4. Can you share the inspiration behind collaborating with Hemabharathy Palani for the film? How did this collaboration come about? How did the collaboration with Hema influence the thematic direction, storytelling elements and emotional resonance of the film?


A: We were seeking a female dancer to play the role of the 'female' robot. Hema was recommended by Emma Gladstone of Dance Umbrella UK. Hema then considered the idea of the one-way journey of the robot, and compared it to the idea of a daughter being married in her culture when it is said she will only return 'as ashes'. So therefore Hema created a short section with turmeric powder to evoke a Hindu marriage ceremony in the middle of the film. 

5. The extension of the film project into an interactive Augmented Reality book sounds fascinating. Could you elaborate on the vision behind this expansion and how you plan to integrate the artistic elements from the film into an interactive literary and visual experience?


A: The new project and book idea will respond to a new socio-political environment where India is competing with China and America with their space missions. This new reality seems to us to call for a new form.


6.Collaborating with Indian writers and other creatives for the Augmented Reality book project seems like an exciting endeavour.

A: How do you envision this collaboration shaping the narrative and interactivity of the book, particularly in merging both of your individual aesthetic sensibilities & artistic vision with the diverse cultural perspectives from India?
We're excited about working with a writer for a book because we will establish a new collaborative dialogue. Our three artforms need not illustrate each other restrictively but can echo and inspire each other poetically.

7. Could you share some insights into the technological innovations or interactive features planned for the AR book project? How do you intend to engage readers through this innovative medium, combining dance, storytelling, and visual arts into a cohesive and immersive experience?


A: The A.R. format will allow us to make magical and beautiful sequences combining animation and choreography, that will draw audiences into a fantastical world. The details of these are trade secrets.

 

:-) Rachel and Daniel 
 

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