Ayisha Abraham and Dina Boswank together threw light on the dark world of the security guard in their art exhibition titled “Night Watch” at the Max Mueller Bhavan last week. Both women had worked independently on their respective films that deal with the dim and mostly sinister life a security guard is bound to. They met a year ago and it was a common friend who suggested that they exhibit their work together.
“There is both single channel work and a video installation,” says Ayisha, explaining her work. She was involved in a case where the police arrested a security guard she knew, with other Nepalis in a series of robberies that had occurred in Bangalore. Convinced that he was not guilty, she decided to find him and fight his case. She found him in a distant police station, where he was beaten up, tied to a table and denied the right to trial.
“What haunted me was that if there is no one to fight for you, you could just disappear like you never existed,” says Ayisha. It was after this incident that she decided to explore the open border between Nepal and India and she began constructing her film around the theme of the lack of privileges accorded to migrants and based her script on the same security guard.
This plan was abandoned after he left the city and returned to Nepal. Ayisha then shifted focus to a Nepali guard and his family who lived in a basement, which eventually resulted in her film “One Way”. This film forms a vital component of the installation. “The community is vast, and they have varied lives and occupations but at the end of the day they support each other,” she says.
“I selected three different men, with three different stories and work places to explain my point of view,” says Dina, an expat from Dresden, she has been in the city for about a year. A resident of Cooke Town, she saw the many apartment blocks that were springing up and gained a keen interest in the guards and wanted to know the inside story of their lives.
Dina who does not know any Indian language, takes her friend along with her who translates what her interviewees say. “One day we met a person who spoke about ghosts and bad dreams. A lot of them claim that city people cannot see ghosts because of electricity,” she says.
Dina's 45 minute film is divided into three parts, and each part focuses on a different person and his individual life and yet they are all distinctly similar in their essence. It gives us an idea of these people, how they think, and the innocence that lies untouched beneath the hardened city conditioning.
“Yes, I am in luck, but my destiny did intervene. I am here only because my destiny dropped out,” says one man who cannot return home because he has been disowned by his father.
Both artists have displayed their work through video footage and photographs and use technology as their medium. The two have in a way captured the changing face of Bangalore; the roads, infrastructure and development, traffic that has multiplied and the new roads and one ways. Shyam Bahadur the protagonist of Ayisha's film comments that he has been in Bangalore for 35 years and over the years the city has metamorphosed into a being he doesn't recognise anymore.
Both of them also noted that their subjects were all politically conscious and had an opinion. When Ayisha started working on her film, the king was being overthrown in Nepal, and there was a lot of political interest surrounding the country. “Many of them wanted to go back and participate in bringing democracy into their country,” says Ayisha.