Close Up

25 April 2017: Pallavi Paul: Long Hair, Short Ideas


Close-Up and Carroll/Fletcher Onscreen present a trilogy of films by young Indian film-maker Pallavi Paul. Central to the trilogy is the revolutionary poet Vidrohi (the rebel), who began writing in the 1970s, as India was witnessing a time of great political turbulence and violence from both the state and far-left groups. However, as Paul notes in her preface to the first film in the trilogy, Nayi Kheti, "the films are not about the persona of Vidrohi, rather I attempt to use his poems as a kind of laboratory to test the tensile strength of resistance as a material of life." In Nayi Kheti, the poems act as a witness to a relentless stream of images and sounds as the protagonists engage in a dizzying exchange of 'metaphysical, scientific and aesthetic ideas'. In contrast, Shabdkosh, the second film in the trilogy, occurs in the silences between poems; a contemplation of the need to be heard against the imperatives of forgetting. The final film, Long Hair, Short Ideas, is constructed around Vidrohi’s wife, her relationship to the radical movement of the 1970s in India, and her intimate experiences of domesticity, sexuality and labour. Throughout the trilogy, as Paul explores the contours of fantasy, resistance, politics and history she extricates the political from a language of nostalgia or mourning to get to the heart of resistance.

Pallavi Paul will be in conversation with writer Juliet Jacques following the screening.

Nayi Kheti
Pallavi Paul
2013 | 11'02min | Colour | Digital

"In the piece Nayi Kheti (New Harvest) I have tried to create three impossible, unfeasible conversations. In the anarchic text After Lorca, poet Jack Spicer writes to Federico Garcia Lorca nearly twenty years after Lorca’s death. Unlike in the book, in the video, amidst the relentless velocity of images and sounds, Lorca has to write back. Simultaneously, Poul Henningson, credited with the invention of the pH lamp, speaks about the desire of the scientist to reverse the rhythm of the day and the night, and reflects on how that dream lacks creativity, because ordained laws of creation too must be challenged. Caught within this question of light and darkness is the image of cinema itself. It has now been scratched out, cut open and remade to the extent that what now exists is only a trail of what we recognised as the filmic. Located as a witness to all these metaphysical, scientific and aesthetic exchanges are the poems of Vidrohi, a vagabond political poet. Nayi Kheti, is not about the persona of Vidrohi, rather I attempt to use his poems as a kind of laboratory to test the tensile strength of resistance as a material of life." – Pallavi Paul

Pallavi Paul
2013 | 19'16 min | Colour | Digital

"Shabdkosh (A Dictionary) occurs in the silences between poems. A contemplation of the need to be heard against the imperatives of forgetting. Many forms of "last records" are conjured to create "deceased time". A time that is not simply un-alive but has a force much beyond the world of the living. Salvador Allende’s haunting last speech hangs in the air mingling with Vidrohi’s obsession with being recorded, while images of hunters and the hunted slowing trickle in. All these together form the skin of the question that Spicer asks of Lorca: "What did you want to do with a poem once it was over?" Should "silence" and "records" always be placed antithetically, or can a new imagination of practice emerge from the world of the forgotten and the misplaced?" – Pallavi Paul

Long Hair, Short Ideas
Pallavi Paul
2014 | 24'42 min | Colour | Digital

The film Long Hair, Short Ideas attempts to create a conversation between the pressures of excavating a political moment and the elasticity of the documentary form. Starting from the desire to look at the women’s movement, the artist found herself immersed in the viscosity of struggles. The inability to find perspectival stability started to become the very site from which possibilities sprouted. The film is constructed around Vidrohi’s (the revolutionary poet) wife. Her relationship to the radical movement is traced via the turbulent political history of India in the 1970s (Emergency and the gagging of free press and civil liberties) and her intimate experiences around domesticity, sexuality and labour. In revisiting her abandonment by her husband and the choices that she had to make as a result, Paul not only recasts the traditionally absent figure of the "revolutionary’s wife" but also pushes us to rethink the orders of ‘silence’ and 'absence' within new precincts.

As well as publishing two books, Juliet Jacques writes short fiction, as well as journalism on literature, film, art, music, politics, gender, sexuality and football. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, for whom she documented her gender reassignment in a series entitled A Transgender Journey, as well as The New Statesman, London Review of Books, Granta, Sight & Sound, Frieze, TimeOut, New Humanist, Five Dials, New Inquiry, Berfrois, 3:AM and many other places. Juliet’s My Transgender Journey column was long-listed for the Orwell Prize for blogs in 2011, and Trans: A Memoir was runner-up in Polari LGBT Literary Salon’s First Book Award for 2016

Image courtesy of the artist and Project 88, Mumbai