The Enactment of Exile in the City

Video installation: tryptich, 11 min loop, 2011

The exhibition opened at NGBK on 11th nov.2011

The exhibition opened at Camera Austria, Graz, on Jan 27th, 2012

A Note on the Installation:

I have been tracking Ram Leela performances and the Chhat Puja celebrations in the city for a larger project of mine detailing music and migration in Mumbai. For this video installation I decided to look at the religious aspect of these two important festivals celebrated by the migrant community that is culturally and linguistically called Bhojpuri. This community hails from north India. This impoverished region has the longest history of migration in the country.
I decided to work on a three-channel installation to allow for moments of private faith to collide with and get offset by moments that are central to a cityscape. Public visibility, political mobilization of the migrant identity, and the larger than life backdrop of the city are the key elements framing, breaking and displacing individual belief in Lord Rama and Mother Chhath.
The narrative of the epic play – Ram Leela, and the ritual of the Chhath Puja are glimpsed through construction sites and cityscapes. A taxi driver weaves through the city to take us to these sites, while regaling us, much like the narrator on the Ram Leela stage, with lines from the play and his own interpretation of the text.
The performer, the performance, the political stage , I am hoping that a three channel installation makes the three distinct layers blur and bleed into one another.

Tracing Bylanes

When does a city become a city? This was the question posed to six filmmakers across the world. Each of us were filming a planned city that was less than sixty years old. I made my film on Chandigarh.

Tracing Bylanes
HD/ 15 mins / 2011

Colour/Stereo sound

Chandigarh, a celebrated instance of modern city planning, was born out of a loss. Partition, in the wake of Freedom, cut the province of Punjab into two. The Muslim majority areas of West Punjab, along with the capital Lahore, became part of Pakistan. East Punjab remained with the now divided, newly independent India – a federal state without its principal city.

A new city was proposed, one that would erase the experience of dismemberment, and break free of Tradition. Le Corbusier was commissioned to plan and build this Capital. He brought with him the idea of an ideal city that desired equality. The grand plan, this city of the perfect grid that Le Corbusier designed, is scientific and even touching in its humanism.

When and why does an ideal city begin to look like an ossified, museumised form? Less than sixty years later Chandigarh struggles to retain its iconic character. A city that is confused by its margins. A city that has to confront the grim certitude of the Outlier overwhelming The Plan.

The city’s residents mark it with their private lives and intimate stories. Tracing Bylanes maps Chandigarh’s unresolved tensions; its illicit aspirations and growing pains. It seeks to recognize Chandigarh’s singular achievements, and holds a mirror to the inevitability of transgressions.

Produced by: SurFilms
Directed by: Surabhi Sharma
Camera: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Sound: Suresh Rajamani
Editing: Monisha Baldawa
Sound Design: Mohandas V.P.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Music : Kuldeep Barve

Part of a film series, And Then It Became A City- 6 under 60

Trailers of all six films : here

Visual Essay

The INTER-ASIA CULTURAL STUDIES Reader

Bidesiya In Bambai :
To view the images – Visual Essays Vol10 No4