Examining urban spaces

Examining urban spaces

Al Film festival

Examining urban spaces

The contemporary urban space always provides a platform for cinematic storytelling. In fact, it provides a large enough space that allows for the multi-layered societal structure to be peeled, one layer after another, in the form of visual art and construction. Each of these complex stories gives voice to different narratives that co-exist in such spaces.

On the first day of the third edition of ‘Urban Lens Film Festival’, which is on till March 6, a collection of such stories that cement a city were showcased. Social, economic, religious, cultural and caste biases/nuances were highlighted. Presented by Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), the day began with five student short films. Showcasing the role of caste and the place of the economically backward in cities, the films opened up an internal discourse that always hovers in the backdrop of a person’s life.

‘Not Caste in Stone’, a film by the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, was the first film to be screened. Filmed in Mumbai, it walked in to the lives of the migrant Tamil community in the city, who have adapted to the different culture while retaining a taste of ‘home’. Even within this community, who are predominantly from Tirunelveli, there are differences that can’t (or won’t) be overlooked. While areas like Dharavi are inhabited by those communities who fled caste oppression in their villages, Matunga houses the upper caste and class families.

There are a few intersection points for the various communities but for the most part, their identity isn’t that of a pan-Tamil one. This play of caste, although not as harsh as in their villages, is an underlying factor that makes one’s identity. The 31-minute film saw the stories of a fight for a dignified way of living.

‘B-22’ and ‘Gila Aparajit’, by the students of Sri Aurobindo Centre For Arts And Communications, followed the first. Both of them chose Delhi as their playground and told the story of caste and the flourishing night shelters that spot the city. But it was National Institute of Design’s animated short film that caught everyone’s attention. Beautifully sketched and animated, ‘Good Morning Mumbai’, by Rajesh Thakare and Troy Vasanth C, brought to life the daily struggles of the unprivileged. Even simple acts like relieving oneself in the morning and finding a private space become inaccessible.

The next two films touched on communal disturbances. In particular, ‘My Mother India’ narrated the story of the Uberoi family and the effect Operation Blue Star had on them. With the idea of the nation as a man-made concept, it spoke of mental and physical displacement. Along with ‘Ayodhya Gatha’, the two films outlined the idea of a Hindu state and the ill-effects of such imagined nationalism.

Speaking about her film, Vani Subramanian, director and writer of ‘Ayodhya Gatha’, said that Ayodhya has caught the attention of those who want to make something of themselves (quickly, without many questions). And there are certain voices, which are hard to access, that represent the small town. With a population of 40,000, it has over 7,000 temples and has become a place for much communal tension in recent times.

“I tried interacting with the ‘big people’ but they weren’t willing. So it was just a matter of spending time with the residents and finding people who are willing to share their stories. When you talk to people, you realise how fragile their lives are, even now.” But with earned trust, one can penetrate the tensed air. This helps understand the people better, them as individuals and the scars of political power-play.

The evening saw films like ‘My Rio, My Tokio’, ‘Workers Leaving’, ‘Electric Shadows’ and ‘So Far From India’. There were also panel discussions with filmmaker Avijit Mukul Kishore, Madhushee Dutta and Joshy Joseph.

The film festival is on till March 6 at the Sadashivanagar campus of IIHS. Log on to IIHS website for details. Entry is free.

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