It is the job of a story teller to spin yarns. They sometimes narrate secrets of their own craft. Like the one of a lonely soldier passing through a village spins about the magical stone which prepares a delicacy to delight his majesty himself and prepares a curry out of ingredients donated by his eager listeners. In an age when cryptic one-liners have invaded work and entertainment, the days of tall tales are over. Gone, apart from the humour of hyperbole, is the delicate local colouring that would recreate a life unknown to the listener or reader.

Purpose drives all our actions, so why not arts? As poetry was opposed to for its entertaining quality, poets tried to robe it in the garb of a tool for truth, of philosophy. With constant attacks against emotion and sentimentality, aesthetics too espoused an intellectual stand. As the joy was shooed out of intellectual sphere, it became restricted to popular culture. With technology matured to present moving pictures, the cinema started its skyward climb on primary human emotions.

A retired police officer narrating his experience in a diction, language and values of mid 20th century India. Courtesy: Youtube

Intellect devised its own tool. To reclaim audience weaned away from literature and serious thought by this all enveloping medium, the genre of Documentary stepped in. Starting as a straight forward activity to record ‘truth’ against mainstream cinema’s ‘fiction’, son this genre could not keep away from the power of visual to sway the mind. ‘Art’ was no longer a preserve of the emotional film-making; the documentaries through choice of their subject, manner of presentation and best, due freedom from appealing to human emotions, could become the experimental arm of cinema.

The story-teller, despised and shunned away now found an opening in this camp, too. He did have to disguise himself as a ‘researcher’, but after all that too was a part of story-telling. So, primarily a tool for journalism, the genre developed and grew so that the distinction between this and the other form  grew hazy. Under all its growth, the elements it started out with were forgotten or mislaid, there was germinating a technology empowered new movement that started usurping its role.

Armed with inexpensive video-cams, an army of diverse people with strange motives began filling out the video-space. The home-video has existed for years, but it was generally restricted to picnics, parties and functions. With more than one camera on his body during the day, the average youth is now recording anything that pleases his eyes or mind, unmindful of all grammar.

This well might be a passing phase and hopefully, things would be passed back to the yarn-spinner. But till that happens, if the researcher-curator could delve into the mire of visual wasteland, he would be able to find fragments that might still spell out essence of human existence. In anecdotal or home-videos, it is possible to catch these glimpses through language, diction and understand the sensibility of an era lost.

Such stand-alone, personal clips retain immense value. They are the honest most documentation, even though sparse.