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A homecoming like no other: Tour Sudarshan Shetty’s Shoonya Ghar

The multimedia piece draws from film, found objects and sculpture

mumbai Updated: Nov 05, 2017 00:41 IST
Dipanjan Sinha
Dipanjan Sinha
Hindustan Times
Sudarshan Shetty,Shoonya Ghar,Bhau Daji Lad Museum
Sudarshan Shetty’s Shoonya Ghar exhibition at Bhau Daji Lad Museum.(HT)

Two ends of a wooden structure are connected by a passage. One feels like it was deserted centuries ago; a dome above, a window with an intricate woodwork design that calls to mind a fortress. On the other end, is a much more familiar room, packed with the rich details of a life assembled in pieces — a dressing table and mirror, a single bed topped by a mosquito net, stacked utensils; there is the sense that the inhabitants could have stepped out just a few hours ago.

This is Shoonya Ghar, artist Sudarshan Shetty’s first public exhibition in Mumbai in seven years.

It’s a take on the doha or couplet, with all its inherent rhythms and contradictions. “A doha always contains a lot of imagery,” Shetty said. “The first line establishes a visual and the second often offers an entirely diverse image. Here, I try to use that narrative style to explore ideas of diversity.”

The multimedia piece draws from film, found objects and sculpture and is open for public viewing from November 7 to December 26, at the Bhau Daji Lad museum.

Artist Sudarshan Shetty. (HT)

“We were expecting something fascinating. What I did not expect was how the exhibition merged with the museum,” says Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, managing trustee and honorary director of the museum. “Despite depicting something old, there is a contemporary feel to the structure, which makes it almost like an extension of the museum itself.”

The wooden structures that form the installation were created as the set of the film Shetty was writing four years ago. In the film, stories unfold around the structure, which is set in the cavity of a hill. Characters enact birth, death, love, laughter and violence.

“All of this was inspired by a poem by the 12th-century poet Goraknath [who influenced the Bhakti poet Kabir] titled Shonnya Ghar. The lines, ‘Who is asleep and who is awake in this city, this home, this settlement, this fortress of nothingness?’ fascinated me. What could be the image of a city in his time and what could be its emptiness?” Shetty asks.

The wooden structures that form the installation were created as the set of the film Shetty was writing four years ago. (HT)

The film shot in the quarry does not look outwards. Its scenes are self-contained, a universe unto themselves. But, at the end, the camera soars higher and higher, showing the quarry as a small world, beside a highway and a bustling urban centre.

“The experience of seeing the structure before and after the film is different. After the film, the audience is aware that the set is made up of components and can be dismantled. It was built at my Mumbai studio, we then dismantled it and took it to an abandoned stone quarry in Lonavla to shoot the film,” Shetty says.

“Filmmaker Mani Kaul once explained the difference between an epic and a story as told to him by filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak,” he adds. “It is this idea of an epic, in which multiple stories and lives are going on unaware of each other that I wanted to represent.”

First Published: Nov 05, 2017 00:38 IST