In the session, Nostalgia for the Future at The Hindu Lit For Life, Avijit Mukul sheds light on how the government, through the act of making films, is constructing an ideal citizen, who falls into an idea of a liberal, secular, democratic, and progressive person. “This film explores the idea of the citizen through the architecture of a home and the idea of Indian modernity. We are looking at the architecture of the home, shooting people’s most private spaces, and communicating the idea of what home is meant to be,” he explained.
Talking about the film’s mechanics, he said, “It starts with the all-knowing voice and slowly becomes a self-reflective one at the end. There is a lot of noise in the soundtrack which is our memory of watching the noise in many old films, and that doesn’t go away. I added that sound to make it look old, something like the ones we used to watch earlier. Much of it is shot in a hand-held camera, on film; people don’t do so any more. It pretends to be someone else’s home movie which has an informal quality to it.”
He spoke of when modernity really began. “In 1947? No. It began in the late 19th century with reformist movements, of people coming home after studying abroad, and from the adopting of ideas from the west in India. Essentially, what this film looks at is the entire idea of cinematic memory in films made on citizen’s housing and architecture,” elaborates Avijit.
He elaborated on how there are assumptions about what standards mean for middle-class lives. “These standards come from a universalised notion of middle-class life, which today is called as 2BHK and 3BH where the world is living as nuclear families. This had become the universal norm, and a fossilisation of the notion of living which started in India in the 1940s,” he adds.
In a testimony to how politics and geography are interrelated, he said, “I grew up in a refugee colony with a lot of space, in Rajendra Nagar, after the first president. The park in front of it was Nehru Park. All the leaders were essentially everywhere. The adjoining place was Patel Nagar. Politics became geography, and continues to be so.”
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