Between presence and absence in Tuni Chatterji’s Okul Nodi

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This article examines the layers of vistas of landscape, archival audio, ambient sound and documentation of history and culture in Los Angeles–based filmmaker Tuni Chatterji’s experimental documentary film Okul Nodi (Endless River) (2012). Chatterji’s film consists mainly of luminous shots of boatmen travelling along Bangladeshi rivers. During key sequences, recordings of Bangladeshi boatmen’s songs known as bhatiyali are heard on the soundtrack. Interspersed among these shots and tracks are brief interview scenes with anthropologists and archivists of this musical form and musicians who perform or study the genre. This article shows how the film fuses experimental filmic approaches from artisanal to structural with documentary, ethnographic and archival modes, including that of ‘ecocinema’, highlighting questions of seeing and knowing. It also traces how the film obliquely brings to light a history of twentieth-century engagement with and archiving of this musical genre on the part of collectors of folk and Indigenous music, as well as radical subcontinental modern artists, thinkers and activists across Partition’s borders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-74
Number of pages20
JournalMoving Image Review and Art Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Priyanka Basu is assistant professor of modern and contemporary art history at the University of Minnesota Morris. Her writing has been published in journals including Third Text and Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics and in several edited volumes. She has been the recipient of awards including The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and a Getty Research Institute postdoctoral fellowship. Her current research is on experimental and artists’ films that use ethnographic and archival methods as a way to critically engage anthropological, colonial and other histories. She holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Southern California.

Funding Information:
The research and writing of this article was supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Intellect Ltd Article. English language.


  • experimental documentary
  • ecocinema
  • experimental ethnography
  • landscape
  • archive
  • Bangladeshi rivers
  • Indian modernism
  • bhatiyali


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