The Ekavalli Foundation, a Kanakavalli initiative, is delighted to present Fall. As part of the foundation’s efforts to engage with different forms of art and media to find common threads with the kanjivaram craft, it commissioned a unique film project, conceptualised in collaboration with Gia Singh Arora. This series of films, directed by Gia, weaves together elements of dance, movement, poetry and film technique, with the sari as the focal point of the narrative.
Drawing inspiration from the deep sense of love and longing in Akam poetry, a genre of classical Tamil Sangam literature, the films follow a story depicted through dance, where the kanjivaram becomes the object of affection. The films trace the arc of romance between dancer and sari, drawing on the subtle nuances of emotion; the joys of falling in love, and the brief moments of separation when the lovers pine for one another. The storyline moves through the many stages of love and longing—from playful flirtation (Part 1: Close, Closer), to yearning for togetherness (Part II: Push, Pull), climaxing in a union of the lovers (Part III: Envelop).
In Fall, the sari transforms from a costume or embellishment into a living thing, a character in the narrative. Here, the dancer interacts with the kanjivaram drape, taking the sari out of its traditional role in the classical arts, and giving it a new freedom, and a revisited emotional context.
Using dance and music—choreographed and composed for this project—Gia has captured the different phases of attraction, allowing the drama of the sari to unfold through movement. Filming in reverse, every expression and movement had to be carefully thought through to achieve the desired result. Instead of reaction following action, reaction had to precede action during filming. The use of reverse film as a storytelling device in Fall has a powerful, almost surreal, effect on the narrative.
Prefacing each segment of the triptych is an extract of Akam poetry from Tamil classical Sangam verse. Rooted as it is in ancient oral traditions, the style is known for its raw beauty and the depth of feeling contained in each line. Themes of love, loss and longing run through these poems, and each emotion is tied closely to a certain landscape, so the natural world reflects the interior world of the mind and the heart. In Fall, the excerpts of the poems mirror the stages of love being depicted.
Accompanying the project, Kanakavalli curated a selection of exquisite kanjivaram silk saris in red, the colour of passion. The gorgeous palette, encompassing crimson, vermillion, scarlet and deeper shades of burgundy, comes alive through the movement of the weave. The symbolism of the colour is seamlessly woven into the narrative of Fall, adding a new layer of significance to the story of love and longing.
Gia believes in the ability of movement to tell a story, and change the way an audience perceives an object or an emotion. In Fall, it is movement that brings the sari to life, taking it out of the fixity of its traditional context. The films were choreographed to tell a story, but provided space for the dancer to improvise with the sari, exploring its possibilities for dramatic expression and movement.
In many ways, Fall is a first-of-its-kind project, creating a new language of display for the kanjivaram. The sari is is viewed not as a piece of clothing with a history and context, but as a free flowing entity that can take any shape and is open to interpretation. Thus, the drape transforms into a character and—through its exquisite movement through the air and in the hands of the dancer—acquires a life of its own. In the end, the kanjivaram flows back into a form that is familiar to us; in a sense, coming full circle.
Fall launched online on the 14th of October 2019, with the films shown in the three parts, alongside the curation of saris online, on Instagram and YouTube.
Watch Fall: Love & Longing