Bombay, the modern epicentre of progress. Of turmoil. And everything in between. Buzzing like a hive of bees. From way up high the hive just seems busy, electric, ceaseless, a tangled ball of neon and metal and concrete. But under the microscope of a filmmaker / poet’s languid eye, the bees and their hive reveal themselves. The buzz is by turns angry, desperate, tired, drugged, orgasmic, conditioned, surging, tempered and a million other things. And the poet’s eye watches, the mouth going dry with the heartbeat of anticipation, and clips private words to those wings.
My attempt for this festival was to collect these very wings, words and all, from the young filmmaker / poet / sound artist of Bombay. The grammar, the form, the content, thought, intent and the inclination was left completely to the auteur.
Poetry is written in plenty all over this city, but alas nobody makes a visual documentation of it. Sound artists create music but, again, none that put together a visual form to represent it. To motivate the young artists in these two sectors was quite a task. But by the end of it, there were plenty who put in their films, poems and sound design programs. What was important, therefore, was not to get carried away by just the form or the finesse of the content but to correlate the essence of Bombay or Mumbai as it is known today, with the works of the artists. It was not to find Bombay in their works but how it really affected their psyche while creating pieces of art.
Literature and prose
Devashish Makhija’s collection of poems (POETRY IS IN THE SILENCES), re-instates the fact that poetry cannot be read but has to be experienced in the Silence that the City never offers. To find silence in the war and cry of daily chores is itself a struggle that brilliantly brings out the essence of his poems. Dev does not see the city from a third person’s point of view; instead every word in the poem lives the life, and understands the city by itself.
Getting the finest shorts was not a difficulty since there are many public short film forums across the city. And I believe Anand Gandhi’s works were a simple choice to make since we do get to see a lot of work around and discuss on a regular basis. Anand’s Continuum is a brilliant example of how the chaotic motion of this city engulfs a million emotions into a perfectly confluenced stream where each emotion loses its identity.
The very cyclical nature of 36KHz (sounds: Urban Hippy Project; visuals: DeCOY) is Bombay. Nothing changes. The constant cycle with cosmetic changes shows how badly the daily struggle in this city has affected the sound artists of this program, representing Bombay like nothing else.
And what is Bombay? It is an amalgamation of every possible human emotion, state of mind, dreams, aspirations, understandings and conflicts in the country. One cannot know this city by reading about it or seeing it on the silver screen. One has to stand in the middle of a square, and the city will activate every sense or organ of the human body.
Born in Bombay, 1979; graduate of the National Institute of Design, India.
Author, director, cameraman, scriptwriter, film editor for short films, film and television series, animated series, commercials and feature films.
POETRY IS IN THE SILENCES
by Devashish Makhija
A train ride from one ‘megalopolis’ to another – especially if you’re leaving one behind to plunge headlong into the other – can put a number of existential issues into perspective. It was that 40-hour ride perhaps – that snipping of my urban umbilicus as I rode on clacking metal wheels across the chest of the country – that changed forever how I would view life in a large metropolitan city. Bombay (renamed Mumbai, for political reasons, not historic-cultural as they would have you believe) was inordinately bigger, frighteningly more heterogeneous and impatient than the city of my birth: Calcutta (renamed Kolkata for similar suspicious reasons). Disillusionment with my work in Kolkata brought me to Mumbai – an impetuous, brash decision scraped with the sandpaper of illogic. I left my home on top of the heap in advertising, worried sick that there’ll be nowhere left to go once I hit the top rung of this very small ladder. And rapidly losing the last dregs of interest my work, if at all, still held for me.
I came to Mumbai when I was 24 years old to do godaloneknowswhat.
And today, at 29, when I look back at my (just under) five years here I think I’ve reached the top of the heap in that particular occupation!
At first Mumbai appalled and inundated me. Here was a surfeit… of people, of vehicles, buildings, advertisements, buses, hammers, chisels, road signs, names, stations, crows, blasts, paus, lives, magazines and deaths. More than I’d ever seen or imagined before. I was quickly put in place as the inconsequential little dot that I was. And that perturbed me enough to find solace in verse. Crawling back to my little room in the back of beyond after changing three buses and a local train – a commute that squeezes every last drop of sweat, every last trace of oxygen from the lungs, and every last reason to stick it out in this city – I would collapse in a heap on my mattress in the kitchen and scar paper with my pen. Angst, kicking and thrashing, would shape itself into words, held down, cuffed to my page. And my poems about the megalopolis crept into existence.
Today I am, to all intents and purposes, a frustrated singer, frustrated graphic artist, frustrated bird watcher, frustrated filmmaker, frustrated writer, frustrated philanthropist, frustrated cartoonist, but an unfettered poet. So there’s no prizes for guessing what it is I devote all my sleepless nights contemplating my choices to. Forty three changes of job, about a dozen different professions, nine apartments (some shared, some squatted), endless peripatetic options and quite a few creatively composed suicide notes later, the only thing that still binds the torn bits of my psyche together is poetry. It’s what helped me make some sense of the lunatic asylum Mumbai is… and kept me from flying this coop.
Though not a day (and night) goes by when I don’t reconsider my fatal decision. But then I reach for my pencil, rip out a scrap of paper and as the words come wriggling out, everything seems like it’ll be alright after all.
Anand Gandhi (born in Bombay, 1980) wrote dialogue for the first 80 episodes of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi; and screenplay for the first 40 episodes of Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki. These two have become the most popular shows in the history of Indian television. “There has been a huge paradigm shift in my aesthetics since I last worked for television seven years ago. Aesthetically, I completely dislike the two soaps.”
Gandhi facilitated film appreciation, theatre, education, philosophy, mythology and creative writing workshops for teachers, students at many schools and colleges across the country, including the Film & Television Institute of India. For four years, he played a very important role in founding and leading the Mumbai chapter of Alok Ulfat’s Avikal Initiative for Life and Active Learning, an alternative theatre and allied arts movement.
He did odd jobs as a graphic designer, copywriter, lyricist, animator, and web developer in between projects.
Besides Continuum,Gandhi wrote, produced and directed the 30-minute short feature Right Here, Right Now (2003)– a film about the cycles of sorrow and joy.
39 min., 2006
co-written, co-produced, co-directed by Anand Gandhi along with Khushboo Ranka
The film narrates simple stories from everyday life, popular culture and folklore that explore the continuum of life and death, of love and paranoia, of trade and value, of need and invention, of hunger and enlightenment. It culminates into a climax where the stories no longer exist as singular threads in their own vacuum but come across and play with each other to form the cosmic fabric.
36KHz (36 min.)
by Urban Hippy Project & DeCOY
When two pieces of metal in motion come in contact with each other, a shock or pressure wave propagates through them. This wave is called the shock pulse and is centred at a frequency of 36KHz. At the same time, the objects recoil and start vibrating until the energy is dissipated.
Using these phenomena as a corollary to everyday city life, Urban Hippy Project & DeCOY create their own take on the impact of colliding personal interactions between city dwellers. This person-to-person contact creates a background noise of shock pulses and reverberates through our collective conscience as social experiences.
A train ride that transcends people from lively chaos to an understated calm, and young people exposed to new collectives of dreams, technology and life. Daily life with its loudspeakers, shop installations, advertising projections, fireworks and visual stimuli, interlaced with 1000 watts of human energy, oscillates indefinitely as the soul of the city.
What remains constant is the sounds and the visions, the backdrop and the soundtrack to our loopy excursions.
The music of Urban Hippy tries to capture this pattern sonically - the grid-like motion of the inhabitants, the repeating activities and the tempo of the everyday city in motion, and tries to follow the graphical curve of the shock wave.
DeCOY plays with visual textures and snapshots from memories of urban times, weaving them through the underlying beat of the city.
36KHz is the first collaborative project between Urban Hippy Project and DeCOY.
sounds: Urban Hippy Project (Himanshu Pandey & Manoj Kurien)
contact: +91 9867615750, himanshux(at)gmail.com
Urban Hippy Project
The band started out as a side project for Manoj and Himanshu (aka baba G & Mojo) in 1997, while they played fulltime as guitarists for the hard rock act Southern Cross. After their last live performance with the band in 2001, they focused on moulding the sound of UHP along with some friends, but their sound remained very folksy and organic till 2005. After embracing electronica in 2005, the band’s sound took on a whole new approach and became a meeting ground for their folksy hippy sounds and electronic, industrial, dark core alter egos. Himanshu and Manoj are the core duo behind the band and describe their sound as electronic folk.
aka Dhanya Pilo, is a video jockey who enjoys expanding an image while breaking the narrative for the medium of moving images. Live video jockeying completes the aural energies derived from music, and DeCOY uses her film-making and photography skills to create visuals which give India a new visual point of view. Dark, happy and calm. Dhanya works as a filmmaker, designer and a visual artist from her studio in Bombay. She VJs for various music collectives and DJs in Bombay. DeCOY adds to 36KHz imagery with poetic meaning and motifs from the urban rush.
Visuals: DeCOY (Dhanya Pilo)
Visual jockeying & compositing at: STUDIO PILO