“So what’s the book all about? Without giving much away, it’s about the way in which a film about three-brothers-lost-and-then-found made around 1977 managed to provide us with a glimpse of a new India emerging from the debris of an older one riven with communal and political strife. The film, the authors claim, has to be read against the ambiguous moment of the Emergency where an older, much-valorised nationalist political ethos gave way to a newer, younger one. The coming together of the brothers and the family out of a miasma of crime and economic dereliction is also the emergence of a new Hindustan out of its troubled/divided pasts. One of the interesting ways in which such a change is tracked is the play within the film between locations in ‘old Bombay’ (mainly Bandra) and the emerging suburbs around Borivali. Such a reading seems particularly felicitous given the manner in which cascades of northern suburbs of the city rose into economic and cultural prominence in the post-emergency era all the way to becoming the dynamo for Mumbai Global of the 1990s and 2000s.”
“Masala means many things and conjures up many associations. For Westerners, it suggests exotic eastern spices and flavours. That sense is apparent also in the word’s most widespread metaphorical use in India — to add masala to a story is to give it, through embellishment or exaggeration, an extra spicy flavour. This association with food has a long history: ‘masala’ derives, through Urdu and Persian, from the Arabic masalih, meaning ingredients. But there are other meanings lurking in the term. The spiciness of masala often hints at the heat of desire. And ‘masala’ more precisely means a mixture — originally a mixture of different ground spices, but more metaphorically any kind of diverse mixture — for example, of an Indian growing up in Britain with a masala of cultural influences.”
We begin our last project for Time Seminar & Studio, our biggest project ever! Here is a brief to the project…
In the early years of an independent India, Indian cinema served as an expression of the creation of identities, of a way of speaking of the ‘ideal’ India – rural India as an expression of change, it spoke of diversity and religious identity and a way to explore the shifting nature of India’s ‘coming into her own’.
Reflecting on our last session that looked at studio photography at the turn of the century, we were able to establish the creation of identity and spaces as generated through symbols and codes. As the camera begins its journey outside of the studio space, our relationship with the camera as functional begins to change – the moments of identity are created by objects in the real world.
Today’s session began to look at the ways in which we create images in the absence of these symbols because the symbols create themselves. Looking at the works of a few 20th century photographers in India, this class looked at the ways in which photographers have addressed the questions of identity and nationhood. Through the works of photographer such as Homai Vyarawalla and Raghu Rai as photo journalists, who were able to capture the moments of power and identity and the negotiation of the two. Their works, which look closely and critically at key figures in Indian history and politics, both Vyarawalla and Rai have been able to draw out of their single frame multiple meanings.
We have spoken about time as form, as formless, as linear and circular, time as an expression of memory and time and its relationship with language. These are some of the ways in which we understand time. But how does space determine action and movement? Can space be independent of time and memory? Is time, physical time, determined by the outside? Drawing on examples of early calendars and almanacs we spoke about the calendar as determined by the societies. How societies create calendars that look to the external to determine time flow and passage. Continue reading
‘Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth. But being educated by photographs is not like being educated by older, more artisanal images. For one thing, there are a great many more images around, claiming our attention. The inventory started in 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems. This very insatiability of the photographing eye changes the terms of confinement in the cave, our world. In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. Finally, the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads — as an anthology of images.’
Read the essay here: