A 54-minute film titled Nostalgia for the Future by Films Division imagines homes as an extension of the body. It is a collaborative project by filmmaker Avijit Mukul Kishore and architect and urban planner Rohan Shivkumar. The film critiques the projection of an idealised future, the failures of that imagination and the ways in which people claim their freedom. Excerpts from an interview with Kishore:
The title of the film is quite unique.
The word ‘nostalgia’ carries within it a sense of longing. Etymologically, it signifies a longing for home. The film talks of a yearning for modernity by looking at how it is reflected in the ideas of home and living over a century.
Why did you choose these projects in Baroda, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and Delhi?
The film explores five ways in which the new nation, the body and the home were conceived by the modern Indian state. The Lukshmi Vilas Palace in Baroda built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III shows how it was part of the progressive Maharajah’s ‘costume of modernity’ in the way it led to a particular mix of the Indian and Western, both in his home and as a ruler. Nehruvian modernity imagines the body as being ‘naked’, and in communion with nature. The city of Chandigarh epitomises this idea, and so does Le Corbusier’s Shodhan Villa in Ahmedabad.
The third aspect shows the sensuality of the body as unreliable — a vehicle for pleasure and sin. This is the Gandhian imagination of spartan living in the Sabarmati Ashram, which strips the act of living to its barest minimum necessities. The fourth body strips even this spirit. This ‘machine body’ is housed in the mass-produced refugee colonies, government and public housing in New Delhi post-Independence. And lastly, the fifth body is the object to be modernised. It is mapped and projected into a modernity it can never live up to.
Was the format a deliberate attempt at creating a mood that Film Division features are known for?
The film evokes a memory which is embedded in the newsreels and documentaries of the period, which talk of the idealism of constructing a new nation. It is also the memory of government propaganda itself, which we reference in this film by shooting sections of it on celluloid — 16 mm, in both colour, and black and white. These are interspersed with archival footage from Films Division. The four film clips are different representations of the condition of modernity then, with its stress on engineering, ‘modern’ architecture, the reduction of a person to a number and the failure of urban modernity to understand the intangibles of the rural and the informal.
Then, we have our new footage on digital video, which is also shot in both colour and black and white, using filters to enhance certain tonalities. The choice of Hindi for the voice-over at one level takes pleasure in language, while also referring back to the kind of language used in state-communications, but is delivered in a nuanced and self-critical tone here.
Nostalgia for the Future is being screened today at the India International Centre at 6.30 pm. Entry is free