Sunday, February 26, 2006

press us

[ a description of malavika's opening performance for the trissur film festival ]


The medium is the message. The adjective is oppression. We are what we
are and nothing other. To call a peformer "Indian" or a banana
"Yellow" is to amputate. To amputate the wrong foot. The wrong foot?
The wrong foot.
If you could describe her ancestry correctly -- get the right
cocktail of Amerika, Singapore, and the shadow of a proud mountain
called Anangan -- then you'd get the right foot. But "Indian" doesn't
cut it. To call a banana "Yellow" is to ignore her shades of green
astringency and spots of sweet brownth.
To say nothing of the larger intent, the amputation. The implicit
Only sticks in the throat. Our protagonists -- peformers and bananas
-- are sweet and tender, frequently upside-down and, to a newcover,
not a little strange. One yellow adjective suffices not. Their nature
is to limit: to draw lines around the diversity of our subjects. The
contradiction then is immediate and unavoidable.

How then to say about the opening performance of this year's Film
Festival? Praise helps us neither. I want to tell you how she is
beautiful, how robots are the past, how stability is moving. But to
predicate is to lock an infinite genius (which we all must share) into
a velvet cage.

Malavika Mohanan is. A stage is. A dozen children are. A dozen
uniforms are. Diversity continues.

Naturally, as one would expect from the opening act of the VIBGYOR
"Identity and Diversity" festival, Ms. Mohanan leads the audience to a
realization of the theme. Surprisingly, she does it through the
theme's apparent destruction.

They parade onstage, teacher followed by column of robots.
Automatons. Identical uniforms holding names of Diverse letters in
Identical black: "V I B Y G O R". Drumbeat. She speaks. "Violet". They
echo. "Violet". Drumbeat. She speaks. "Indigo". They echo. "Indigo".
Drumbeat. She speaks. "Blue". They echo. "Blue".

The movement, the tempo, the style place us within a robot colony.
Friends or fellows? Before the dryness cracks, sometime in the second
colorless repetition of words, a stranger interrupts from the audi--
MAGENTA
Drumbreak. She stutters. "Yellow". They stutter. "Yellow". Drumbeat.
She speaks. "Green". They echo. "Green". Drumbe--
BROWN
Drumbreak. She stutters. "Orange". They stutter. "Orange".
The infiltrators swagger onstage like virii, corrupting robots into
dance with sashes of color. They waltz in cheap perfume and carry the
unmistakable odor of freedom.
Diversity is not in quantity. Seven colors are not more diverse than
two -- it is the quality, the inclusiveness, the openness that we
strive for. The colors are infinite. Nothing less will satisfy.
She attempts to pull it together. But the dream is over. Everyone is
dancing. She too succumbs. They whoop with delight.
As totalitarian pretense breaks into childish pandemonium we see spy
the second thread. We are training a generation of robots to feed
hungry vacancies in San Francisco, Dubai, Bangalore. They will walk
identically, speak identically, think identically about society,
diversity, individuality. For a time. Until the infiltrators emerge
from the audience, from us, to liberate them with dancing sashes of
color, to remind them that childhood is life and life is forever.
Such is VIBGYOR, a manifesto of its own self-subversion and
trascendence. These are not the droids you're looking for.

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