A take on modern domesticity and the body of the Indian citizen.
Nostalgia for The Future, co-directed by architect Rohan Shivkumar and filmmaker Avijit Mukul Kishore, is an interrogation of the architecture of the home and the body of a citizen, and how the state has influenced both. Through the film, you journey through four vastly contrasting imaginations of the home, built over the span of a century, each attempting their hand at a modern identity–Laxmi Vilas Palace in Baroda; Villa Shodhan in Ahmedabad; the Sabarmati Ashram; and public housing in post-independence Delhi.
AD: Can you draw any direct association between the evolution of the identity of a modern Indian citizen and content produced by the Films Division India?
RS & AMK: Films Division India was entrusted with the task of making a visual record of the nation’s history, thus shaping the imaginations for what the nation and its citizens were meant to be. Whether there is a direct connection between the two or not is hard to say. However, there is something to be said about the way that imaginations of ‘unity in diversity’, a certain kind of frugality and other value systems were encoded into the body of the nation through the images.
AD: Isn’t the identity of a ‘citizen’—who we define as ‘a legal subject of a nation’—in some ways rooted in actions that contribute to the nation’s practices and in alignment with the welfare of the state? So, did the state design the image of a modern citizen, or did we?
RS & AMK: Within the democratic framework there is a curious way in which the relationship of the state and the citizen is shaped. The state is meant to reflect the desires of the collective consciousness of the citizen. This relationship is far from seamless, given the nature of our democracy, which continues to be fundamentally unequal with access to resources and the public realm being severely limited. Given that fact, whether the state can seamlessly reflect the aspirations and desires of the collective consciousness of the ‘citizen’ is questionable.
AD: What would you say are the successes and failures of state-created architecture and state-sponsored media?
RS & AMK: It is extremely important to think about the creation of culture outside the forces of the market. The state here must be the caretaker of a public realm that is accessible to all. The state has the mandate of providing and protecting these possibilities. Unfortunately, this has rarely been without problems. The state uses its media machinery as propaganda, or uses heavy-handed techniques to undermine local communities and culture in its project of governing a large and diverse population. This is the paradox of the state. However, there have also been many architects and filmmakers who have engaged with these processes and created some extremely interesting works of art through them. Many housing projects designed by Charles Correa come to mind. Another example are the radical and often subversive films made within Films Division in the late 60s and 70s by filmmakers like SNS Sastry, Sukhdev, Vijay B. Chandra and Loksen Lalwani, to name a few. It is important within a democracy to not view the state and its media as monoliths, but recognise them as porous entities that the citizens must lay claim to and engage with.