Saturday, April 28, 2007

Desperation in Delhi

Saw a film today, which is part of the EU film festival in Delhi that's currently on. Details of the film are below.

Name of Film : ‘Honey and Wine’
Year – 2006
Duration – 76 minutes
Director – Marinos Kartikkis
Eleni lives alone, haunted by memories of the past. Her life is a routine until she witnesses a quarrel between a young couple in the house across the street. One afternoon, Eleni receives an unexpected visit from Rhea, the young woman from the house across the street. She has locked herself out and needs to use Eleni’s phone in order to call a locksmith. And so begins a relationship between the two women with unforeseen consequences for them both.

Moving on from reel life to real life on a hot & torrid Saturday afternoon in Delhi proved a tough task for me. What struck me first as I hit the road outside British Council (where the film was screened) was not just the 40 degree celcius temparature. The film deals with a relationship - between two women who are neighbours. The striking feature for me in the film was the use of silence and silent spaces to convey a lot. Delhi, in contrast, is all about noise. People are aggressive, intrusive, loud and crass. A relationship between two women who help each other without intruding into each others private spaces is absolutely unimaginable. The Indian script is being played out globally in terms of gross domestic product, economic superpower and so much more. We have built huge malls which are supposedly as good as those in Dubai and Singapore - but in terms of evolving sociologically, we've still got a long way to go, at least in North India. All that I could think of as I watched the film was that this is so European and so alien here in Delhi. A story of two single women, both going through a painful phase in their life, far apart in age and yet helping each other out of a crisis. It's not like they're good friends or talk a great deal. In fact, at the outset, they're strangers. But as the plot moves on they come to mean a great deal for each other without intruding into each other's space. In Delhi, very often, the housing society where I live turns into a circus because someone has a wedding. What that means is that all the neighbours, are subjected to loud music and noise late into the nights and have to shift their cars from the usual parking slots. Even the electricity lines are sometimes tampered with and neighbouring buildings have to suffer long power cuts. People are not supposed to have any space to themselves and loud intrusions have to be dealt with without complaining. A wedding in the society is a cause celebre and obviously one doesn't complain to the police about rowdy behaviour. Even if you do, it's almost certain that no action is going to be taken. Even if some neighbours are helpful, they're also nosey and interfering. As for single women - they're just victims of circumstances - their singlehood!


misc07 said...

I have never lived in Delhi, but have always wondered why it is so unkind and initimidating

ishani said...

Besides unkind, insensitive etc, it's also a totally unintellectual city. If you're the kind of person who wants to discuss ideas - you'll feel totally stiffled in Delhi. People are energised by new cars, buying property, going to expensive clinics, new gadgets, being corrupt and making a quick buck. But it's a city without an inner being or any intellectual value addition - this sense of being in a desert that I get here is a bit difficult to convey to people who haven't lived in this city - but it's scary too, when you think of new generations of young people being born here and growing up and imbibing this peculiar culture that has no fountainhead of thought and ideas to feed it.

Roma Bhattacharjea said...

What I found really new about this blog was the unusual vantage point from which it written- urban alienation-the alienation of life in the Metros- as experienced by a single woman –this glimpse is very rare in mainstream popular writing-rather like that first opening of a shuttered world so poignantly filmed by Ray's Charulata-

-the blog is really not just about the desert of Delhi-but rather the feeling of trapped consciousness of a deeper kind-where can one go-what kind of space can one go to to express one's deeper self in a world overrun by newest cars, washing machines, detergents, skyrocketing market information all of which seem to hold the soul to ransom

The blare of wedding loudspeakers also reminded me of the film Monsoon Wedding-and how there is not one India but many Indias-while the Monsoon Wedding portrays all the physical paraphernalia of an Indian wedding-underneath is trapped many different layers of family drama-including the very particular experiences of different single women in the story.