30 October, 2020

Cut, Wounded And Still Reeling

Poetic, assured, Khair uses allusion, metaphor, photography and barbed wire to weave his tale

Cut, Wounded And Still Reeling

Tabish Khair’s Filming draws a unique connection between photography and barbed wire: both inventions, intended to freeze movement, were perfected in the year 1880. In many ways, the rest of the novel is the story—romantic, tragic, bloody—of how these two inventions played out in India. The story of how still images began to flicker on white screens in dusty villages and then started to move, then to talk and sing—first in black and white, then in scintillating, money-churning, record-breaking colour. And of how barbed wire was stretched across the subcontinent, to separate and to secure, and how its sharp points killed unsuspecting souls or left deep wounds in those who got past, their identities in shreds—wounds that continued to ache decades later, at the memory of a song, or a childhood caper, or a youthful love.

The story follows a young prostitute who runs away with one of her regular customers, the film-crazy postal clerk Harihar. Along with their young son, they bring the magical bioscope to village audiences,...



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