The themes in ‘Cycle’ are themes I have been obsessed by right through my life. Injustice. The indigenous perspective.

Gender inequality. Class struggles. Violence and it's repercussions. And questioning status quo, both in content, as well as form. Here are some glimpses of my other works that may have shaped and inspired ‘Cycle’.

 

~ Devashish Makhija

 

published fiction

 

“Butterflies on strings”

 

The short story that ‘Cycle’ is adapted from… https://helterskelter.in/2015/01/butterflies-on-strings/

Excerpt :

“As the fifteen of them converged at the centre of the adivasi village, their rifles pointed, their eyes more fearful than furious, they saw the villagers gathered around a large bonfire. They had all gone statue-still, in the middle of some ritual. They seemed to Sushil like a tableaux frozen in time. Like he had just walked into a tribal museum, and was gaping at the central exhibit. But the breath heaving in those chests displaced that thought. All the adivasi men had bows slung across their chests, and a leather quiver of arrows on their backs. The little bits of metal pierced all over the women’s faces flickered in the firelight. In another place, at another time, Sushil would’ve sworn they looked ethereal. But here, tonight, the sight of their raw, almost animal like beauty made his bladder quiver. To keep himself from draining into his pants he cocked his rifle.”

AJJI 1.jpg
 
FORGETTING.jpg

“Forgetting”

 

“Butterflies on strings” appears in this anthology : https://harpercollins.co.in/product/forgetting/
 

About this book :

“These are stories of difficult pasts, and the struggle to leave them behind. Identical-twin rickshaw drivers are wrongly suspected of terrorism in paranoid Bombay; a Calcutta merchant envies each saree he sells for the intimacy it’ll share with the woman who buys it; an illicit love affair is conducted over nine potent text messages; a lonely astronaut sings out loud, hoping his voice will find an ear somewhere; tribals, soldiers, Maoist rebels, policemen and journalists in Orissa are caught in a web of violence unleashed on them by both their own histories and that of a nation helplessly repeating it. Forty-nine tales that speak of the power of forgetting.”

 

“Oonga”

 

The 2020 young-adult novel : https://www.tulikabooks.com/young-adults/oonga-english.html

About this book :

 

"Devashish Makhija transitions his film Oonga into a powerful novel that sits deep in the clash between tribals, maoists, the military and a rapacious mining ‘Company’.

The story moves between lyrical innocence and militant justice, fear and brutal oppression – nuanced, sensitive, ramping up the tempo till all explodes. But at the heart of the churn is the little tribal boy, Oonga. Desperate to see a performance of the ‘Ramayana’, he goes on an epic journey to the big city, to return as the blue adivasi prince of the forest, Rama himself! And, Rama-like, he must now take on the gun-wielding demons who have swooped on his village after abducting its passionately idealistic but pragmatic teacher, Hemla didi. With echoes of actual events, a filmmaker’s flair, a cast of unforgettable characters, and a masterful retelling of mythology, the book hurtles breathlessly forward to expose the dystopia of ‘development’ and conflict of ideologies, complicated by the faultlines of language. Showing how a bountiful region can turn quickly into a war zone. And how peaceful people are forced into battles they don’t want to fight."

OONGA Cover.jpg
 
When Ali became Bajrangbali.jpg

“When Ali became Bajrangbali”

 

The children’s picture book : https://www.tulikabooks.com/general-picture-books/when-ali-became-bajrangbali-english.html
 

About this book :

 

“The residents of the Bargad Chawl banyan tree are in danger of losing their homes – their nooks and crannies, shelters and perches, when the superstitious, god-fearing local corporator decides on a road-widening project. Ali, the monkey, has to find a way out. He swings, jumps and leaps into action, and comes up with a monkey trick that gives a new twist to the phrase, ‘playing god' in this hilarious and heartwarming story!”

 
we-are-the-dancing-forest.jpeg

“We are the dancing forest”

 

The children’s picture book : https://www.tulikabooks.com/home/we-are-the-dancing-forest.html
 

About this book :

 

“The rhythm of the verse draws us beat by beat into a forest, lush and alive. But who are the ‘we’, so steeped in every part of it? Words and pictures sing together in this light and glorious ode to nature and those who live among it. Inspired by an adivasi song from Telangana, this taps right into… the connectedness of the natural world. (This book) creates a spectacular creative web of its own, visually reflecting the belief of the first dwellers that we are the forest and the forest is us.”

 

“terribly tiny tales”

Tweet-sized flash fiction published on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram over 2013-14 :

1 cycle.jpg
 

released films

 
AJJI 2.png

“Ajji” (Granny)

 

The trailer of this feature film : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv7S2mbtfqs

 

About this film :

“An evocative fable about the reciprocal exchange of extrajudicial powers between the oppressor to the oppressed. Taking its cue from Little Red Riding Hood, ‘Ajji’ is a gritty slew of pent-up emotion, taking place in the shadowy alleys of a slum that could very well be a forest rife with wolves and their wayward desires.

 

As the law dispenses fear rather than justice when a girl was brutally raped, her 65 year-old grandmother finds herself drawn towards bitter vengeance. Within her calm disposition, lies a naïve child-like determination and a sense of justice that seems misplaced and fantastical within the contours of a bleak debilitating oppression. Awakened instincts lead her closer towards an encounter with the perpetrator, a man of power and wilful perversions.”

 

“Agli baar” (And then they came for me)

 

The short film : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPjLTucZq6Y

 

About this film :

“In an increasingly corrupt India, a slum dweller, an activist and a student are killed one by one for protesting an illegal land-grab, leaving the viewer to wonder if they might be next.”

AGLI BAAR.png
 
TAANDAV.jpg

“Taandav”

 

The short film : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgO1HvdcZl8&feature=emb_logo

 

About this film :

“Constable Tambe can’t afford the fees to send his little girl to school. Yet, he passes up a chance to steal some black money with his colleagues. Stuck in a moral quandary, he loses friends, love, money and meaning, in quick succession. His life comes to a boil. On unwilling duty in the middle of the loud, blinding revelry of a Hindu Festival night, something inside him explodes. And he finally breaks free… by dancing!”

 

“Rahim Murge pe mat ro”

(Don’t cry for Rahim LeCock)

 

The short film : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfhhEzZ6byM&feature=emb_logo

About this film :

“The tumultuous life of “Rahim Le Cock”, a soon-to-be-slaughtered chicken, is a fast-paced, exuberant retelling of the inevitable joys and frustrations of existence. Using a friendly voiceover and quick jump cutting to depict his environment, Rahim’s triumphs, desperations, and eventual death showcase a warm and deeply ironic humor.”

RAHIM MURGE PE MAT RO.jpg
 

published perspectives

 

“Indian global cinema and the people’s history”

 

https://www.epw.in/journal/2020/24/postscript/indian-global-cinema-and-peoples-history.html

“The state’s perspective has records, documentation, evidence, witness, proof. The people’s perspective has none. A system that does not allow for the people to be heard and represented and spoken for is a system that must be rejected, questioned, and overhauled. With no formal counter-perspective available, the only informal way to record the people’s perspective is in Stories.

Because the only thing that survives intact and unblemished once a generation dies is the Art that was created in their time. All traces of the people’s perspective can be whitewashed from textbooks and history books and museums, and even YouTube, if a regime with contrary ideas comes to power.
But the stories that represent it can remain… forever.”

 

“Cinema of cynicism”

 

https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/cinema-of-cynicism/article18582671.ece

 

“Cynicism to me is a questioning of things as we have come to accept them. It is not the same as pessimism. Cynicism in fact is intrinsically optimistic. It helps hold up a mirror only so we can wonder about how messed up that reflection is, so we can choose to change the way things are.”

 

“Voicing the voiceless”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gOwROJqv5I

 

“There is a ‘reservation’ in my cinema. I try to reserve my films for the voiceless, those who have little or no representation in the mainstream – be it storytelling, the news, or daily discourse. I like exploring the larger questions that trouble me through stories of voiceless, marginalized individuals… By telling the stories I do I try to find resonance of my own fights, furies, frustrations, struggles and desperations in those of my protagonists.”

 

“In search of a home in borrowed aching”

 

https://indianexpress.com/article/express-sunday-eye/in-the-battle-for-ownership-finding-a-shared-home-in-each-others-pain-7599155/

 

"Realising that my own rootlessness and sense of unbelonging had no resonance in contemporary times, I began to seek my home in the stories of the “outsiders”, those who don’t find enough representation in what we call the “mainstream”. The violently dispossessed Adivasi (Oonga, 2013/’21, Tulika Books), the delegitimised, impoverished classes (Ajji, 2017), and migrant labourers (Bhonsle, 2018). I’ve tried to appropriate their sense of dislocation as my own, since mine — although painfully palpable to me — is, at most, an abstraction to others. 

 

I’m aware, no matter how much and how earnestly I research someone else’s “homelessness”, I may never truly know what it feels like to them, in the chilled marrow of their bones. At best, I can surmise on the basis of what my marrow feels like. And in that borrowed aching, I hope to someday alleviate my own."