Atul Dodiya retells 7 minutes of a Hitchcock thriller, in new art show
The exhibition at Mumbai’s Chemould gallery features 36 photorealistic paintings based on a crucial sequence in the film Blackmail.
The encounter between lead character Alice White and the artist Mr Crewe is one of the most crucial sequences in Alfred Hitchcock’s murder mystery, Blackmail (1929). She visits his studio, she’s curious about the artist’s tools and works, he plays the piano for her. The playful interaction turns sinister when he tries to rape her, she struggles, picks up a knife lying nearby and kills the artist.
This sequence, which lasts seven minutes in the film, is the plot of Atul Dodiya’s new show, titled Seven Minutes of Blackmail. It opens at Chemould Prescott Road on Thursday and marks the contemporary artist’s 10th exhibition with the gallery.
“I’m a film buff and Hitchcock is one of my most favourite directors. I was inspired by Blackmail in particular because of its artistic references,” says Dodiya, whose oeuvre is speckled with paintings that draw references from politics, literature and popular culture. In a work titled The Trans-Siberian Express for Kajal, he paid homage to Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar by creating the shot of a son perched on a father’s shoulders; The Bombay Buccaneer was based on the poster for Baazigar.
In this show, Dodiya has created 36 paintings that capture the drama of the sequence — the gestures, expressions and movements. The paintings are in stark tones of black and white and have a grainy feel to them, making them look like film stills.
“I watched the film multiple times and took several photographs of every shot on my phone and camera,” he says, explaining the process. “Sometimes, I would click a photo while the film was playing, sometimes when it was paused. This way, I captured poses, expressions and gestures in detail.”
Using the images as reference, Dodiya spent two years creating the photo-realistic, 18 inch x 24 inch paintings.
The exhibits also include large, abstract paintings that are shaped as artist palettes. “Usually, a viewer only sees the finished canvas; the palettes represent the artist’s inner turmoil and method. Full of colour, they’re abstract art in themselves,” he says.
Through the paintings, Atul ends up literally narrating seven minutes of the film, says gallerist Shireen Gandhy. “The works are gripping and stand on their own, so they’re interesting even to those who haven’t watched the film.”