Cinematic response in India to social justice movements, even when aimed at rectifying communal violence and tensions, reifies entrenched orders separating Hindu from Muslim, citizen from the ‘Other,’ native from the diasporic. To the polyphony of films focused on interfaith love, a recent indie film adds a new ‘look’. Narasimhamurthy Padmakumar’s, A Billion Colour Story (2016) focalizes on a child’s point of view in a black and white filmic narration to dismantle old hatreds and re-ignite love of culture and nation for the very diversity that has become pixelated, walled, entombed and reactionary. More like Nollywood in its reliance on a smaller budget, a do-it-yourself chutzpah and decolonial vision, the story revolves around a child, Hari Aziz, who becomes the instrumental force behind rendering his parents’ dream true of making a film about their beloved nation, its teeming diversity, and its border-crossing love. The director, Padmakumar, addresses a host of current crises faced by those living in the shadow of Late Capital, culturally steeped patriarchies, and right-wing Hindu fundamentalism, while pointing to the billion colours that make up this teeming ‘democracy’ that might make its most significant issues clear in the binary of black and white. A close reading of this film reveals its decentering and decolonizing of hegemonic notions of nation, gender, class, and religion,-and of the hegemony of the Bollywood Gaze that dictates who will love whom, to what degree, at what costs, and to what end. What Narasimhamurthy Padmakumar provides in the diegesis, alongside the love story of a Muslim man and his Hindu wife, and the ‘product’ of their love, a child, is a film that encapsulates their ‘looking’ at the world. However, his looking leaves a lot to be desired on two registers: his looking does not see the active youth-led contestations taking place on the ground against the Hindu-led political hegemony and his looking refuses to call out the culprit, the excesses of violence performed by the nation-state and its Hindutva brigade against its minoritized ‘Muslim’ and othered subjects.
Pillai Subramanian, Shreerekha
"Looking at the Nation through a Lover’s Eye: N. Padmakumar’s Film, A Billion Colour Story,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
2, Article 13.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss2/13