Peter Brook’s Mahabharata

As Indians, each one of us has grown up immersed in stories of Shiva, Krishna and Hanuman. These legends were our superheroes and a part of our countries folklore. Mythology and superstition are embedded in our daily lives. To people from societies’ other than ours, Shiva might simply be “the blue god” and so on.


Watching Peter Brooks version of Mahabharata brings in another perspective on how people with different beliefs open their minds up to a particular subject. Watching this, gives the Indian viewer a taste of an outsiders standpoint. It may not be what we expect but the effort is applaudable. Brooks film manages to put across a very important point-A keen interest taken in an exterior culture and the willingness to recreate and represent.


The movie does not follow the typical norms of depiction of the Mahabharata but there is a visible effort put in. The movie is in the form of a narrative in which an elderly re-counts events from the epic to a young boy. The set-up changes as we lapse through time moving back and forth between the story and real time. The use of non-Indian actors brings to the table a difference in accents, depiction and understanding, which in my opinion was slightly hard to keep up with.


Overall, I find it hard to decide whether to be critical and look for flaws in nooks and corners of the film or to be slightly more optimistic and appreciative.

Contested Spaces

One  of the most contested spaces according to me is the space of sexuality. It could be either in our minds or the minds of society as a whole. But what I would like to talk about is how we contest about our sexuality within ourselves. How do you know who you truly are? We have to figure it out. But how do you figure something like this out when you live in a society where you are scrutinized and judged based on every single move you make. I personally luckily am sure of my sexuality but saw a very close friend of mine go through this. To be put into a box where one doesn’t know what one is supposed to be and is confused but everyone around is trying to figure it out and put labels on that person. HOW can one win that contest? Where do the lines blur. Does one look at what is right or does one feel and go after that feeling. It is a constant battle with your thoughts and feelings. Those of us who have it figured out, were the lucky bunch. We do not know what this contest is like. IS there even a win? A world filled with so much judgment and expectation how does one be who he/she is openly and is the world even liberal enough and is a person even strong enough to dare figure his sexuality? I think the contest itself is the win. Because at least that means one has dared to feel and is battling to find his true sexuality and who he really is. That itself is a big win.


Contested Spaces

“A platform intended to promote debate urgent social and political questions, across conceptual and disciplinary boundaries”

So let us focus of the definition of contested spaces, the word itself suggests that it is the competitive dispute between two or more individuals with different interventions or understanding regarding the topics.

Lets take an example, The new widely interventional breakthrough of virtual reality also known as immersive multimedia, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. Although this is a contemporary discovery in technology as well as art stripping oneself from the real world’s sensory as well as attentive spaces could be critical. One could say they even contest the idea of using the same natural space provided to be experience more physically and replaced by virtually a more visual and auditory assertion.

Creation of immersive worlds beyond the recognition and control of the human self and its incorporation to our daily lives was rather more entertainment based until the invention of VR technology questioned boundaries and speculated the true sense of how we operate our lives. We have always been transformed into various spaces to aid the experience of entertainment and heighten it however possible, for example a movie theatre and a 3D movie experience, entails the viewer to reimagine the space the a new dimension, now imagine the same experience being brought to life with the agenda of sole everyday experience and reality. Stripped to their simplest elements, the earliest digitization consisted of little more than contested spaces, as the technology enhances the concept of creating multiple contestant space virtually as opposed to reality seem to an endless extend. How one would eventually seem to debate if these spaces are well valid as real as the physical ones, and how to declare and define their current spaces with incorporation of these new extraordinary additions, will it hold our historic, social and phycological importance to be equivalent as the digital one.

Although it is still a space in a reality, which is highly virtual soon, the existence of many essential attributes of daily being and living would be virtual too, so are we compensating our lives and presence to be counterweighed by a technology driven intricate consistency of these virtual spaces?



The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space is a phenomenological questioning of poetry and the spaces occupied within its instance. Introducing the book the author places most emphasis on the interior domestic space and the context around it. He attempts to trace the reception of the poetic image in the subjective realisation holding openness and a focus on the present experience.

He explains his utmost focus on the poetic image for it being the estate of the cleared consciousness, something, which is, unuttered of definite consciousness and more an invention of heart and soul. This direct relation of poetry to reality exaggerates the truth of perceived objects, in this instance them being the house directed further inaugurating future discussions of inside and outside familiar to anyone dealing with the theory of space.

In the final chapter, he talks about metaphysicians who state their views objectively and could be understood contrarily however he states their image to be acknowledged as it is, As Van Gogh wrote “life is probably round.” On the contrary without any knowledge of his writing La Fontaine said

“A walnut makes me quite round.” These proclamations provide indication of the context of life and the irregularity of roundness that is emphasised by all or many writers. Although no claim has evidenced to such physiological beliefs the claim helps the readers accept that we are in the roundness of life like the walnut that becomes round in its own shell.

However the scope of such poetic discussions could be argued ostentatiously and are evidently delivered throughout the chapter, for instance the image allows the thought of the sphere to be phenomenological and analyse by crystal clarity of the entire image and its experience of being spherical and not just the observation of it.

As the passage formulates he gives instances of being, regardless of the absolute image of nature Michelet says, “a bird is almost completely spherical” he uses these metaphors of nature and its isolated existence the holistic complete relativism of life. The word ‘almost’ makes a geometrician wonder the form and concentration of the bird in constant to the dynamics of the form rather than its experience and those wings being the centralisation of life around the roundness of the bird and its protection.

Similarly, for a painter the centralised view of understanding of roundness is a tree, he believes the isolation of a living object being concentrated alone makes it round. For him the tree alone in itself is round, hence to anyone observing the receptive central images of cosmic data descried differently by different poets in multiple fragments of their poem could register the same expression.

Shells – The Poetics of space

Through this chapter we see how the shell is perceived in so many different ways. The shell is so hard and so clear but most times it is difficult to understand it. After examining the shell world, imagination is defeated by reality. It is spoken of how the formation is mysterious and not the form. A quote from this chapter continues to intrigue me; “One must live to build ones house and not build ones house to live in”. What intrigues me is the continuous debate of the shell. How they are inhabited or uninhabited and how someone can live inside a shell. Can the shell be a code for all the safety and comfort zones we move into when we feel danger or the fear of the unknown? I guess philosophy leaves it all open to interpretation. How does something big come out from something so small? Why have we never thought of it before. A creature however never fully comes out from the shell. Thats what is so contradictory the part that comes out vs the part thats on the inside. Do we ever show our whole self? Is there always some part of us thats always inside a shell? However the voice in this chapter suddenly changes. It is the fear of the unknown. Is what is inside a shell scarier and more dreaded or is it something to be pitied? A quote from this essay caught my eye immediately. “Wolves in shell are crueler than stray ones” Through this essay you get to see different perspectives at the insignificant things and thats what makes it so much more interesting. It is also spoken about how the shell becomes incapable of moving when the part that gives it life leaves. What is also talked about is how snails build their house in the shell and thus wherever they are, they’re always at home. And how the shell gives a space to be withdrawn and in full and deep secret away from everything. we get to experience and perceive something so small and sometimes what seems insignificant in so many different ways.

Contested Spaces

Contested in my mind would be a spaces where there is a sense of competition. It can be urban vs rural, historic vs modern.There are two meanings attached to the word contested one being, to engage in competition to attain (a position of power) second, oppose (an action or theory) as mistaken or wrong. So either related in context of space defines a it to be a place or structure of power play. A place of struggle and competition.

When we refer to space there is a question of scale and impact. Contested spaces depending on the scale will have a huge or small impact according to me. For example if we take a courtroom. There are two parties trying to convince a judge who shall decide their fate. Here the impact can be national or global. But spaces like classrooms where the scale is small and the impact is more individual. But in either case I think the scale of the place affects the impact may that be positive or negative.

Contested spaces I think can also be positive because it can have a good impact and bring out the best in people. Places like classroom and wanting to be the best can being excellence in fields like sports or academics. But, in todays time people have gone over board. Space itself have created wars. Space denotes power and money.

Poetics of Space

The Poetics of Space  is a 1958 book by Gaston Bachelard. The book describes the beauty of household spaces with details and literature. The spaces which resides at our house with minute detail and elegance forms an enchanting aura which shapes out memories and dreams. The comfort of our own home and the dream of something more. The palace and cottage moments in our lives and their importance. Every little space has a life of its own and understanding of its existence.

“The man with the magnifying glass takes the world as though it were quite new to him. If he were to tell us of the discoveries he has made, he would furnish us with documents of pure phenomenology, in which discovery of the world, or entry into the world, would be more than just a worn out word, more than a word that has become tarnished through over frequent philosophical use”.

Miniatures start with the difference between what is fantastic and what is fantastical. “The cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it”. One takes the best from the objects and create or recreate in a miniature hence, the values, the details and the beauty of it is more compact and put together in harmony. It’s experience is more rich and wholesome. He talks about scale and perception. The fact of the idea what is small and what is big. Who defines scale and that too is a reality which starts from imagination.

There are many beautiful examples one of them being of a scientist working in laboratory who starts describing a periwinkle flower. The beauty of the description is in the details. the smallest of curves and finish. the play of light and the literature, language used by him. The worker doesnot even realise that he becomes a poet desribing the flower.

He says the man is a being of the world and it doesnot take him time to become the world. The miniature deploys to the dimensions of the universe. Once more, large is contained in small.

“Thus the minuscule, a narrow gate, opens up an entire World. The details of a thing can be the sign of a new world which, like all worlds, contains the attributes of greatness”.

The point that we have got accustomed to the subtlest jerk, sound or vibrations that we dont notice them anymore. He brings this out by reference to a clock and how we have have got accustomed to its “tick-tock” that we never notice it anymore.

Poetics of Space

The Poetics Of Space by Gaston Bachelard is a philosophical study of inhabited spaces. This book is filled with metaphors and imagery of an intimate place, such as a house. He uses the house as that is what hold the memories and experiences of living. He uses this concept, relating it to various other illustrations to explain, “All really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home”. Each chapter in the book is titled as per the exact subject matter.


(noun: nest; plural noun: nestsa structure or place made or chosen by a bird for laying eggs and sheltering its young.)

In the chapter Nests, Gaston Bachelard talks about shelter as a primal instinct. It says when a human find shelter, he or she feels protected, just as a bird makes his net to shelter their young ones.

He used the example of a snail crawling into his shell as a comparison to humans having homes. Just as a snail fins comfort in retracting back into his shell, humans too withdraw themselves from time to time and retract back into their shell, i.e. the corner of their houses to find serenity.

Vlaminck, a painter says “The well-being I feel, seated in front of my fire, while bad weather rages out-of-doors, is entirely animal. A rat in its hole, a rabbit in its burrow, cows in the stable, must all feel the same contentment that I feel.”

He the goes on to talk about how “marvelous” the nest really are, “The enterprise and skill with which ani­ mals make their nests is so efficient that it is not possible to do better, so entirely do they surpass all masons, carpenters and builders; for there is not a man who would be able to make a house better suited to himself and to his children than these little animals build for themselves. This is so true, in fact, that we have a proverb according to which men can do everything except build a bird’s nest.” He also says that even though the nest are invisible from above it is the best hiding palce for the “winged creatures”

Gaston Bachelard then recalls a story form the Journals of Henry David Thoreau, March 17, 1858 that talks about green woodpecker that took an entire tree for its home. He compares this taking possession with the joy of a family that returns to live in a house it had long since abandoned. The woodpecker’s confidence in the shelter of the tree in which it has hidden its nest, represents taking possession of a home.

Gaston then associates a nest to a simple house, the images of both seem to evoke the sense of simplicity.

What he strats talking about next it “bird architecture”, as Jules Michelet says that a bird is a worker without tools. Michelet says “a bird’s tool is its own body, that is, its breast, with which it presses and tightens its materials until they have become absolutely pliant, well-blended and adapted to the general plan”. He talks about there being an intimate quality of a house built for the body by the body, just like a shell.







Contested Spaces

Mary Louise Pratt, in Arts of the Contact Zone uses this term to refer to social places where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in context of highly asymmetrical relations of power.

Contest itself means to engage in competition to attain power, therefore contested spaces are disputed spaces. To put it in simple terms I see contested spaces as an area where there is a persistent struggle over, with two parties or more to simply gain power. Spaces however become contested spaces when there are limitations put on them, limitations in such a way that affect its inhabitants or the people in and around it physically and mentally. Physically meaning that they are probably removed entirely from the space or are constantly harrowed by the dispute because of the third party. Because of the creation of dispute, sometimes public spaces become contested spaces and no more remain open to everyone.

A prime example of this can be the situation in Kashmir where there is a constant power battle between India and Pakistan as to who’s country it rightfully belongs in. coming back to Mary Louise Pratts explanation, the situation in Kashmir, a special place where there is an Indian and Pakistani culture clash all in order to gain power.

Contested spaces are seen a lot in terms of real estate as these spaces primarily revolve around land ownership. It’s not always on large scale like the Kashmir situation but can happen on a reoccurring basis for example when families dispute over who own the bigger share of land.

Dialing it down even more, contested spaces almost always occur between siblings as to which side of the study table belongs to who.

Spaces in Indian Art

1. This abstract painting by V.S. Gaitonde seems to have been split into 3 having different shades of blue. It gives me a sense of emptiness but also vast. The black on the blue canvas gives it depth and also a little harsh. The entire canvas in blue makes me instantly draw parallels with the ocean and the black makes it seem stormy.

2. The black across the beige paper seems to move in one direction from the left to the right with the black spreading into the neigh giving the impression of a fast pacing movement. The movement in the artwork is constricts to the upper half, playing with the whole concept of negative and positive space.

3. Blue and brownish beige gives me a very somber feeling. Visually the space on the canvas is divided into two with a horizontal patch of blue in the middle extending to the width of the canvas. However the colors are very earthen giving me the feeling that this is a tribal depiction. The black, red and yellow in the blue look almost like people, making me feel like this is a scene from a tribal area.