Friday, July 29, 2011

An art installation that erases boundaries between real and reel life

An intriguing installation piece plus elaborate photo booth by artist Srinivas Krishna in a cozy corner of TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto accompanies a retrospective of Bollywood icon Raj Kapoor, acknowledging his contribution to the industry. It demonstrates how his films deftly tapped into the aspirations and conscience among viewers in the milieu of a newly independent India.

The retrospective was held as part of the Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA). As the artist explains, his idea rewinds to the then photo studio. Indians in the 1950s would have their best possible portraits taken, against a peculiar formal motif. The self-images signified what they aspired to – relive the characters onscreen.

The idea here is if photo studios are where they explored another dreamy possibility of existence, they would visit the cinema hall to explore similar such multiple possibilities. That’s what the filmmakers like Raj Kapoor offered to the public.

That’s the very theory or latent thinking the artist has tried to reconstitute. In his piece, the backlit Bollywood beauty has tilted her head, lips parted gently and her lover softly holding her cheek, a prelude to a tender kiss. And in this romantic moment, you find the lover’s face changing - no longer the legendary actor-director Raj Kapoor, as his face gets digitally altered. He turns into the filmmaker-artist, Srinivas Krishna, himself and the face at other times, morphs into common people.

The concept does have a novelty touch and feel to it: it’s like having your picture portrayed yourself in the role of a famous Hindi movie start, to fulfill that long cherished desire of yours! Next to a mini-cinema running scenes from Awaara and Shree 420, two of the filmmaker’s biggest hits is a high-tech photo studio.

Visitors can have their portraits in it, placed via Photoshop into everlasting images from Raj Kapoor’s landmark projects. It’s virtually the Photoshop equivalent of getting your photograph snapped with your face peeping through a round hole in a peculiar painted placard. This very idea makes the art project a unique one – as it erases the boundaries between real and reel life.

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