Volume Zero: Documentary on Charles Correa

'Volume Zero' explores Charles Correa's vision


Khopkar's documentary is a cinematic tour of some of Correa's best work. "I'm interested in the relationship between architecture and cinema,'' says the film-maker who has previously documented Jehangir Sabavala's art and Alarmel Valli's Bharatanatyam. "With each location there is a specific problem with how to make the location come alive.'' The first Correa building he came across was the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya in Ahmedabad 20 years ago. It's a large airy structure built around a courtyard, a feature that Correa repeats in many of his later buildings. In the film, Khopkar recalls feeling "the rhythms of its spaces' ' and noting how "it responded to changing lights'' .

It wasn't till the mid-1990 s during a visit to Pune's Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) that Khopkar considered making Volume Zero. As Correa wanted the complex to reflect the work being done by the institution's scientists, IUCAA is littered with astronomical themes. A courtyard has two trees that represent a spatial phenomenon called Roche lobes. Another patch of green has a fractal pattern known as the Sierpinski Gasket.

As Khopkar's film shows, most of Correa's buildings draw on the architectural forms local to the place they're situated in. Jaipur's Jawahar Kala Kendra, whose blueprint is a matrix of squares that represents nine planets, is a nod to the city's town plan drawn by its founder Jai Singh. Correa has a novel explanation for the excellence of traditional Indian architecture. "Architecture was used to give a message to the people,'' he says. "Today the media is used. Akbar used architecture to tell people that he was the new game in town. The reason architecture is so banal today is that there's no message to put across.''