crisis care catharsis


Utopia, 1969-1976 Film installation, 2 screens, Digitised 8 mm colour film animation and 16 mm black and white film

Utopia is Malani’s first double screen projection work, meant to be exhibited using two film projectors. The work is a juxtaposition of two ideas: the utopian urbanism brought forth by the modernized elite during the Nehruvian era, and debacle of the project in the repressive period of the Emergency (1975-77), most clearly expressed in the slum clearance campaigns of the time. It is an artistic critique of the utopian ambition of the postcolonial modernization project and its violent excesses side by side, suggesting a nightmare realised as well as a dream shattered.

Dream Houses (1969), an 8 mm stop-motion colour animation, was placed next to Utopia (1976), a black and white 16 mm film, and conjured a title for the double-screen projection. The film is a result of artistic experiments that began when Malani was a member of the Vision Exchange Workshop (VIEW) initiated by Akbar Padamsee.

The left panel was shot, after Nalini moved to a basic apartment building in the suburb of Bombay. A young woman is shown looking out of a window at the high-rise buildings amidst slums and train tracks leading to a comparatively plush South Bombay.

Reversing the film, she superimposed images of the earlier Dream Houses. As a result, a pondering, disillusioned young woman is seen surrounded by floating architectural constructions, gazing at the urban landscape. The film ends with a subtle double exposure when the young woman ‘disappears’ in dreamlike clouds.