Seminar: Escaping the DVD Dispositif: Abraham and the Historical Exhibition
Speaker: Parichay Patra
Abstract: In his debut film VidyarthikaleIthileIthile (This Way, Students, 1971), John Abraham addresses the popular cinephilia prevalent in South India, with textual references to Tamil mythologicals and Malayalam socials. From then on, he engaged with the idea of the collective, politically, cine-aesthetically, narrationally. In his swansong Amma Ariyan (Letter to Mother, 1986), Abraham recreates the physical and psychological conditions of existence for his phantom vieweras well as for the space they inhabit, the exhibition sites offered by the film society movement and film collectives. Malayalam cinema revisits these cine-cultural-exhibition sites in recent times, as it mourns the loss of a movement and associated film viewing practices in the state, with images of old film society activists watching digitized classics on their PCs. John Abraham’s cinema, unlike his contemporary Adoor Gopalakrishnan avoids digitization and the tyranny of an international marketplace. Circulating surreptitiously through the circuitous routes that accommodate phantom viewers, it escapes the aesthetics and the dispositif of the DVD. Unlike most other New Wave products, his cinema is lost (from the proper exhibition channel) but never found, it is (not) burnt and yet it never returns. In this chapter I want to look closely at this exhibitional site and viewing practice the reimagining of which is possible only historically.