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Photo-exhibition ‘No Answers’ based on the migrant labourer’s presence and sexual violence

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Binu Bhaskar’s exhibition of photographs, at Draavidia Art Gallery, is an extension of his debut Malayalam film, 'Kottayam'

When photographer-artist Binu Bhaskar returned to Kerala after a stint abroad, in 2012, the presence, and the number, of migrant labourers struck him. As he was by the cases of violence against women, cases such as Nirbhaya and how some of these horrific crimes were forgotten. These two elements segue - the migrant labourer’s presence and sexual violence - in his first feature venture Kottayam, which was screened at the International Film Festival of Kerala (2018).

This film delves into these concerns, with empathy toward the labourer who has left home to come to Kerala to make a life here, he clarifies. The film releases on January 17, and an exhibition, ‘No Answers’, of photographs based on the film, is on at Draavidia Art Gallery, Fort Kochi.

Photo-exhibition ‘No Answers’ based on the migrant labourer’s presence and sexual violence

Kottayam was a long project which started in 2016,” says the 47 year-old who divides his time between Guruvayoor and Thiruvannamalai, where he has a farm. Work on the film, which was also shot in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and places around the Himalayas, involved extensive research as part of which he shot several portraits and a few landscapes.

His fine art photographer’s eye captured the striking images of people, “My works have been people who are connected to the land. For this project I photographed a lot of people since the film is about the displaced.”

Around 35-odd stylised photographs (collages and installations) are on show. The artist in him plays around with the images and tells the stories, in a format seldom seen - material for film as an art show. For now cinema is his medium, fine arts will have to wait.

With this show he also experiments with the idea of space— the gallery as a private space and the cinema hall as a very public space — while creating art out of art (the photographs and the film).

He chose the moniker, ‘No Answers’, because “you hear of all these things, but only partially. And it is all old news and forgotten two days later,” he says referring to cases of sexual violence against women and its reporting.

Photo-exhibition ‘No Answers’ based on the migrant labourer’s presence and sexual violence

He is no newcomer to the fine arts, the English literature graduate had conducted his first solo exhibition at Draavidia Art Gallery in the late 1990s, and the current exhibition is a kind of revisiting that old connection though the city has many more spaces to show art today. Since completing his photography degree in Australia, he worked with art galleries there and elsewhere. He has lived and worked in Dubai, in the advertising industry, which he quit out of ‘boredom’. A few years spent in Spain, as part of his stint in Europe, resulted in a Spanish film ‘Roadsong’ which whetted his interest and led him to films; he is the cinematographer of the Malayalam film Lukka Chupi (2015).

Making the film opened his eyes to the filmmaker’s struggle, especially exhibiting it. Kottayam was chosen deliberately, as location, to underline the fact of migration —emigration, immigration and migrants. As a result it is a place populated by a new people and the resultant inevitable tensions.

“Our intention was to use Kottayam to express a certain geography. A terrain which was once virgin is now violated, like what happens to the female protagonist, Annie and resonates with the tribal people of Himalayas who are now forced migrant labourers.” The film follows the investigation into the rape and murder of a policewoman in Kottayam, which leads the investigators to the North-East.

The Kottayam cast includes scenarist Sangeeth Sivan, Aneesh G Menon, Annapoorni Devaraja, Shafeeq, Nzabeni Kitan, Ravi Mathew and Nimmi Raphael. The cast and crew comprises new faces. Binu co-wrote the script with old friend Sajith Narayanan. The film has been produced by NiteVox.

Binu’s oeuvre

Binu has shown his works in Kochi and internationally. He has shown at ‘Alive’ - Dalslands Konstmuseum (Sweden), ‘Human Race’ - the Mojo Gallery (Dubai), ‘Di stance’, Bodhi Art, Travancore Palace (Delhi), ‘Diksha’ - Smith Street Gallery (Melbourne), ‘Intérieur nuit’ - La Galerie Miniature (Paris), Christie’s Auction ‘South Asian Contemporary Art’ (New York), ‘Inner Vision’ - The Guild (New York), ‘Witness’ - Centre for Contemporary Photography (Melbourne). He has also conducted workshops and lectures at institutes within and outside India.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 8:07:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/photographerartist-binu-bhaskars-exhibition-of-photographs-is-an-extension-of-his-debut-malayalam-film-kottayam/article30478092.ece

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