Sandeep Ray is a writer, visual artist and historian.
A latecomer to fiction, Sandeep’s debut novel, A Flutter in the Colony (HarperCollins India, 2019) – set in time and temper between the rubber plantations of 1950s Malaya and the anguish-filled years of pre-Partition Bengal – has won acclaim. The Mekong Review said that the ‘story – one of love, family, humanity, nationhood, friendship, loyalty and tragedy – is as intricate as the rich fabric of Malayan society itself.’ Vogue noted that the story ‘maybe born from history, but is written with one eye on the horizon of fiction’. ‘Meanwhile, The Hindu boldly claimed that the book is ‘destined to be a classic’. Sandeep’s forthcoming monograph, Celluloid Colony (NUS Press), about Dutch propagandistic film in colonial Indonesia, is based on exhaustive research in film archives in the Netherlands.
Sandeep’s earlier interests focused on film – understanding the past through visual archives and filming the everyday overlap of fact/fiction. He cut his teeth freelancing commercially in Boston, becoming series editor and researcher on several longue durée projects – the !Kung ethnographic film archive, the largest at the Smithsonian Institution; the educational outreach of National Geographic; and on a multi-year series for the Harvard Science Education Department. He contemporaneously produced a diverse body of personal and historical works filmed in Kolkata, Aceh, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the Timor border, Namibia and Greece. Of these, The Sound of Old Rooms, a 20-year collaborative coming-of-age story about a poet, won the Grand Prize at the Taiwan International Documentary Festival in 2012. In 2014 Thin Arms, a short about mortality won Best Director at the Dubai International Film Festival. His documentaries are distributed by DER, a leading resource for ethnographic film. They have have been reviewed in the American Anthropologist, Visual Anthropology and have screened at several festivals including in Busan (BIFF), Taiwan (TIDF), Sydney, Paris (Jean Rouch), Tehran (IIFF), Copenhagen (DOX), and have curated at the Flaherty Seminar, the Films Division of India, and the Whitney and Getty Museums.
Sandeep has a PhD in history and currently teaches Southeast Asian history at SUTD, a new university in Singapore established in 2009 in collaboration with MIT. Alongside his creative and academic roles, he has lectured widely and been invited to serve on film juries.