Brief description of the work
In a geography of home always set beside another internationalism, the corporate, a returning mother and her American son together travel their separate Indias. Their calm intimacy in the imagined as the real will be constantly ruptured and re-sutured by Pepsi.
Yeh Hi Hai—Hieroglyphics of Commodity [47 mins.]is a film that deals with the idea of home, and the difficulty of locating that idea in a real, changing world. Many of the things that identify home, the public spaces, the historical buildings, are the repositories for memory, personal and cultural, but how are they read? And how are these familiar images separated, or not, from the other, conflicting images around them? An image (icon?) so recognized it has become part of our being becomes fragmentary as soon as it is shared; it acquires new meanings to and by each new viewer. What is meant to unite us also divides us. These separations and dilutions are magnified by international contexts.
This theme, mediated by an Indian mother taking her American child back home, is the structure of the film. Pepsi logos, familiar to the child and to the American audience, are continuous with, continuously interrupt, the traditional Indian landscape. Their vividness and insistence are at odds with the complexity and subtle colors that surround them.
An experimental format critiques via the illusion of home movies the slick certainties of Pepsi commercials filmed for an Indian market. The journey begins in London’s financial district and then moves into an India both remembered and present; a plenitude of pasts keeps interrupting the flow of travel and reminiscence. The camera settles on the child, on other children. It moves from a mystical Fathepur Sikri to the family sitting comfortably at opening soft drinks. Whether on the back of a bicycle or waiting at the train station, no moment ever arrives uncomplicated by its options, some of which are in the traveler, some embedded in the place. Persistent shapes of a recent colonial presence vie for attention with the Pepsi signs and film hoardings which overwrite their obscure but still recognizable facades. Other travelers, containing heir own untold stories, cross the frame. Such a journey precludes any arrival. Travel as a mother compounds these losses in its recognition that what she wants to give her child is already fading, and her own backward longing yet again a diffraction of an earlier generation also ruptured from any reliable ‘home.’ Structural violence once re-coded in the furbelows of Bombay’s Victoria Station reappears in the Lehar Pepsi commercials, an iconography of consumption that takes no responsibility for what it subsumes. Polished, choreographed studio shots open a vortex constantly reaching for the hand-held camera which can do what the multinational never can as it turns the lens upon itself.