Rare movies, produced independently from Bollywood, were shown during the Indy India film programme, as part of the India Contemporary exhibition, April 2009 in GEM The Hague. The programme was put together by curator Shai Heredia from Bangalore, who is also responsable for the Experimenta Film Festival in Bombay and Delhi. On the eve of the festival she talked with GEM director Robert Kluijver.

Alienating and penetrating film experiments from India

May 2009 -

Can you say a few words about your approach to cinema?
Over the years, my curatorial pursuit has been driven by the challenge of representing films made outside the mainstream, or at its margins. Most are films by single person authors whose scales of production and funding are small and far removed from the mainstream feature or documentary. I try to bring about a critical, inquisitive state of mind in the viewer by exploring the politics of perception.


Still from JOHN&JANE by Ashin Ahluwalia

How did you select the feature films shown here?
This selection explores how experimentation with cinematic form confronts and reconfigures political and aesthetic sensibilities, both for the artist and viewer. The filmmakers come from different regional, social and professional backgrounds and their work can be read as auto-ethnographic documents.

What about John & Jane, the film selected for the opening?
In both its form and content, John & Jane confronts all the stereotypical cinematic representations of India through a view into the lives of young call centre workers. The film reflects the cultural ambiguity of a generation of Indian youth who lead virtual lives in the time zones of Virginia or Ohio, selling products and services that are completely alien to their own cultural backgrounds. By blurring the lines between the 'real' and the 'fake', a world of fantasy, desire and nightmare emerges in the interstices of the non-acted 'reality' of the film. I believe this is a work of art that will resonate and continue to reveal its meanings for years to come.

Is there an audience for this kind of experimental film in India?
Yes there is now and has always been - it is in fact growing quite steadily. Over the years, the number of film festivals screening independent and edgy work has increased exponentially. The pirate DVD market, which offers a range of art cinema, has played a major role in creating a discerning audience that is very open to all kinds of cinematic experiments.

Which reactions do you expect from the audience here in Holland?
I think the Dutch audience will be quite surprised by the films in the programme. Some might feel alienated by the cultural specificity of the content, but I am sure that the overall experience of viewing these rarely seen gems of the Indian avant-garde will definitely be a profound one.

Indy India was supported by the Hivos-NCDO Culture Fund.