Lakeer, a short film by Shruti Mahajan, filtered in a simple black and white is an interactive video in response to the poem ‘ Roshniyon Ke Shahar ‘ by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The film is an eye opening abstraction of the borders, tangible and intangible that demarcate spaces, partition spaces and create contested spaces. The film focuses on India in particular but hints the occurrence and universality of these spaces all the world.
Cultural and religious diversity in India already creates differentiation between people. However, far greater than this, is the constant subjection to and awareness of the turmoil and hardships faced in this country, which usually trace back to the political barriers that are created through greed and hunger for power. Kashmir is one of the simplest examples, even highlighted in the short film, a space divided and torn between two countries through intangible barriers, the perfect example of a contested space.
Shruti Mahajan, defines boundaries, she defines partitions and division of spaces in three distinct steps. The first step, ‘Drawing’ is the demarcation of boundaries by tracing over an existing map of India. The lines are continuous in response to the sound in the background. Flat or dotted, they represent concrete and indefinable limitations spaces in India. A country is made by its people, a two dimensional map, a simple drawing of a line defines how they are divided.
The second step is ‘Making’ where the film focuses on hands, cutting out three-dimensional barricades from paper. These are the physical representations of borders, limits and spaces. They are skillfully cut as extrusions to the ‘Drawing’ previously made and respond to the barbwires actually present.
The final step is ‘Dividing,’ here the camera focuses on states like Hyderabad and Kashmir being cut by a set of large scissors, imperfectly. After slowly going through and removing those states, the leftovers of India and then mercilessly cut into smaller finer pieces, representing the larger and smaller contested spaces that together form a whole.
The entire film, zoomed into just the hands and the tools used to perform certain activities, is more impactful with the close shots that continue throughout the film. The viewer completely focuses on the map, it’s definition using rough charcoal, it’s extrusion through paper barriers and its division through scissors, that don’t always follow any set line or any set barrier. They are tangible and intangible ‘Lakeers.’