Karam in Jaipur
This absorbing documentary is the third film in renowned ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall’s long-term, five-part study of childhood and adolescence at the Doon School in northern India. The school is India’s foremost boarding school for boys, and the series provides unique insights into the values and training of the Indian middle class in particular and postcolonial elites more generally.
With great sensitivity to social, material, and aesthetic details and a keen eye for significant moments of interaction and emotion, “Karam in Jaipur” reveals the day-to-day ups and downs of a schoolboy’s life. It follows Karam, the main character of the earlier “With Morning Hearts,” into the next phase of his life in Jaipur House, one of the five “Main” houses of the school. There he must keep up with his classmates, contend with the authority of older boys, and try to make his mark by developing some of his talents.
During the period covered by the film, he discovers an aptitude for gymnastics and works to achieve success in the yearly competition. He plays hockey, sings, and struggles to settle into the House. Without being judgmental, the film gives a penetrating insight into Karam’s experiences and into the aspirations of the Indian middle class in one of its most characteristic postcolonial institutions.
This highly nuanced and remarkable documentary will inspire discussion in classes in cultural anthropology, Asian and Indian studies, visual anthropology, education and childhood studies, and post-colonial studies.
Note: The DVD version of the film is fully authored, with menus and chapter markers put in by the filmmaker. It also features optional closed captions, which the VHS version does not have.