Born in Faisalbad (Pakistan) in 1925 and raised in Lahore, Krishen Khanna and his family moved to Shimla in India during the partition in 1947, a fact that deeply impacted his view on the world. Considered as one of India’s most prolific and influential artists, Khanna, typical of artists in the 1940s and 50s was a full-time banker and a part-time artist; his job brought him to Mumbai and into the fold of India’s Progressive Artists Group, giving him the impetus to relinquish banking and give into the all-encompassing life of an artist.
When young film maker Sruti Harihara Subramanian was approached by the Piramal Art Foundation to make a documentary on Krishen Khanna’s recent work, she was not just elated, but enthused by the project, as she was already dealing in art through her venture Ashvita, along with her husband Ashvin E. Rajagopalan, who volunteered to become the Executive Producer. A Far Afternoon, as the documentary was titled, is based on a masterpiece painting by the master.
Art freezes a series of moments in time. To hear the 90-year-old Krishnen Khanna describe the influences behind A Far Afternoon, it is obvious that the piece has been influenced by memories collected over time, discrete images lodged in the artist’s mind and more nascent, less visible thoughts and ideas that dictate the choice of figures and colours. A film in five parts, A Far Afternoon, delves into those influences that eventually rendered themselves on canvas. A Far Afternoon, the documentary, is Sruti’s attempt to memorialise the artistic process involved in the creation of the eponymous art work.
Sruti Harihara Subramanian is a film maker, entrepreneur and a theatre actor with a deep love for animals and the environment. She has debuted as an actor with veteran actor K. Balachander's serial Sahana. Sruti has worked as assistant to actor/director Revathy in the tele film Verrukku Neer. She later assisted director Vikram K. Kumar on the bilingual feature film Yaavarum Nalam (Tamil) and 13B (Hindi). She assisted director Vishnu Vardhan on a Telugu film Panjaa.
Interview with the director
What prompted you to make this documentary?
Ashvin Rajagopalan, the director of The Piramal Art Foundation came to know that Krishen Khanna was painting one of the largest canvases in his career. He felt that this process had to be catalogued/archived as it is a big moment in the history of Indian Art. I didn't know much about Krishen but I knew that he was in the same league as artists like M.F. Husain, Souza and Raza, who were pioneers in modern Indian Art and as a young film maker it would be a great honour for me to document such an eminent artist.
How has been the exposure to your work?
We had our first screening for a private audience at The Curzon, Mayfair in London to commemorate Krishen's 90th birthday. Ever since the film has travelled to various cities in India including Mumbai (at the DAG Modern Gallery), Delhi (Maurya Sheraton and at the India International Centre) and Bangalore (National Gallery of Modern Art). The film will continue to be screened at various cities both nationally and internationally. Many art institutions and galleries have shown interest in screening the film. The film also premiered at the All Lights India International Film Festival in Kochi.
What have been your experiences and challenges during the making of the documentary?
My training as a film maker was working as an assistant director in mainstream commercial Telugu, Tamil and Hindi cinema. After working in fiction films my greatest personal challenge was to unlearn everything I knew to fit into the non-fiction mode. In fiction we work on bound scripts, know the scenes that are being shot for the day, plan the shots. Basically, everything is planned in advance. But in non-fiction even if you had a basic plan you had to be ready to improvise and make sure you do not miss out on any important moment. Overall it was a great learning experience while making the film both professionally and personally for me.
A Far Afternoon—A painted saga by Krishen Khanna:a 71 minute documentary by Sruti Harihara Subramanian.