Ashim Ahluwalia's Remake Of Akbar Padamsee's Experimental Short Film To Premiere At Venice Film Festival!

By Arun Fulara. Posted on August 08, 2016

Ashim Ahluwalia, the director of award-winning, Miss Lovely collaborated with the 89 year old noted Indian artist, Akbar Padamsee, and Jhaveri Contemporary to remake the visionary 16mm short film called, Events In A Cloud Chamber. 

The 20-minutes short film will have its World Premiere at the 73rd Venice Film Festival in the section, Venice Classic. The festival takes place in Venice from 31st August to 10th September 2016.

In 1969, the Padma Bhushan recipient, Akbar Padamsee, one of the pioneers in Modern Indian painting along with Raza, Souza and M.F. Hussain, made a visionary 16mm film called, Events In A Cloud Chamber. This was one of the only Indian experimental films ever made back in 1969, the print is now lost and no copies exist. 

Shot on a 16mm Bolex, the film ran for six minutes and featured a single image of a dreamlike terrain. Inspired by one of Padamsee's own oil paintings, he experimented with a new technique of superimposing shapes formed with stencils and a carousel projector.

After just a handful of screenings, the film was shipped to an art expo in New Delhi where it was misplaced. The film existed only as a single positive print and there were no copies. This was possibly the birth of experimental film in India, but it ended before it began.

Events in the cloud chamber

Picture Courtesy to Jhaveri Contemporary Gallery

Over 40 years later, filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia worked with Padamsee, now 89 years old, to remake the film.

The 20-minute-short is produced by Ahluwalia’s film company, Future East, in association with the art gallery, Jhaveri Contemporary, where the film will be screened in November, 2016.

Ashim Ahluwalia says, When I met Akbar Padamsee, he was 87 years old. I knew he was one of the pioneers of Indian modernist painting but I had no idea that he had made two forgotten experimental films.”

Talking about how the collaboration happened, Ashim reveals, “Akbar was really keen to collaborate on something cinematic because he knew I was interested in that sort of thing. I really wasn't sure what we could do together until he just happened to tell me about this second film - Events in a Cloud Chamber.”

“After just a handful of screenings, this film was shipped to an art expo in Delhi in the 70s where it was misplaced. There was no negative and the film is now long lost. This could have been the start of an entirely different kind of cinema in India but I suppose that was never meant to be” he laments.

Talking about the exciting process of bringing a lost film back to life after half a century, he adds, “I wanted him to try and remember this film so that we could both attempt to make it again. He couldn't completely remember how exactly the film was made, and that was what made the process so fascinating and collaborative for me.” He adds.

 “I find this stuff more inspiring, more future-looking than anything going on today in the art or film world. It's like ghost stories - so many missing links, mysterious artworks, lost films. But I’m not trying to be nostalgic, just trying to look to the past to find inspiration because there were so many directions started and never finished“ he signs off.

Like a maze that leads into endless other mazes, Events In A Cloud Chamber’s vanishing reads like a fable. The project sounds extremely interesting & one sense that the making-of-the-film would be as much fun to watch as the film itself. Hope we get to do that soon.


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