An Interview with Yashaswini Raghunandan (Director)
The Kaleidoscopic World Seen through the Whirling Kyatketi
Q: There’s a sense of nostalgia for me in this film, and the poetic words of the worker “the kyatketi rotates 100 times a minute, but the earth rotates once every 24 hours” remains with me.
YR: These words left a strong impact on me, too, and formed the core impetus for the direction of the film. The film takes place in east Bengal, India, about three hours by car from the border with Bangladesh. It’s an area where many migrant workers from Bangladesh have gathered. There’s a belief in impermanence or transience in this region, that “stopping means death”. Perhaps it has to do with the local history of having once been under the rule of the Mughal Empire.
The kyatketi is not only a children’s toy like a pinwheel, but also represents the life force that continually turns, and thus reflects people’s views on life and death. The movie camera which also “rolls” is similarly a metaphor of constant motion. That’s why those words voiced directly by our film subject were very important for us.
Q: The children were repeatedly claiming to search for “the ruby” in the drama parts. Their lines sounded like figures of speech and I was intrigued. How did you shoot these sequences?
YR: I provoked them to play a game as I was filming them. The ruby is a jewel that appears in local legends and the flashlights they carried represented the act of “searching”.
Q: The children see the ruby in the moon in the sky. Then towards the end of the film we see that an eclipse happens, and this is very striking. Did you know beforehand about the eclipse?
YR: It was a coincidence, but it allowed me to point to the difficulties the people of this area face. They are far from prosperous, they live in simple houses, and just make a living through handicrafts like kyatketi-making.
Q: Does the title “That Cloud Never Left” also represent their arduous state?
YR: We were filming during the wet season when the weather is directly affected by monsoons. Rain can come at any minute, and the sky is never clear of clouds. Of course, the title also represents the negative elements people face in their lives.
Q: The footage is peppered with different colors like pink and various textures, and I found it very mesmerizing. How did you do that?
YR: I cut out the wings off the kyatketis and projected light through them when I filmed. I also used frames from film strips. The original colors and scratches on the film strip were captured in the footage.
Q: We see lots of toys, including the kyatketi in this film. When I saw how the artisans were cutting up the film strips and using them as materials for toy-making, I couldn’t help thinking “What a pity!”
YR: The toy-makers don’t think like that. For them, the film strips are just materials and don’t have historical or archival value. I myself became enchanted with these toys. Who is making them, and how? I was inspired to find out through their toy-making, the world they live in. Life is a place to learn and be taught things like that.
(Compiled by Ishizuka Shino)
Interviewers: Ishizuka Shino, Oshita Yumi / Interpreter: Matsushita Yumi / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Sugawara Mayu / Video: Sugawara Mayu / 2019-10-12