12 Nov 20162:00 pm | Cinema 1 |
This screening is followed by a conversation between curator Shanay Jhaveri and academic Erika Balsom, marking the publication of the book Chandigarh is in India published by The Shoestring Publisher.
Chandigarh is in India, curated by Shanay Jhaveri, gathers together a diverse group of lesser-known films on the city of Chandigarh, India. The films, made by both Indian and Western artists, expose the myriad and competing desires that fuelled the inception of the city, as well as those which have continually been projected onto it; expanding the image of Chandigarh in the public imaginary—which has long been limited to Corbusier’s architecture, today often cast as a set of well-worn, camera-ready ruins—and bringing the greater, living city of Chandigarh into view. This programme intends to remind us that Chandigarh is in India, and is not and has never only been merely a stage set for Corbusier’s modernist magnum opus.
Following the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru announced that the freshly severed state of East Punjab would have a new capital city. His decision to build a new capital, rather than adopt an existing city, was both practical and symbolic for the rehabilitation of Punjab, which had suffered the greatest trauma and violence from partition. This new capital would be a “modern” city, and the site was selected in mid-1949: a plain 180 miles north of Delhi. Twenty-four villages and 9000 residents were forced to give up their land and relocate, and the soon-to-be-built city of Chandigarh was named after one of the existing villages, which had a temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Chandi.
At the inaugural ceremony of Chandigarh, Nehru proclaimed,"Let this be a new city, unfettered by the traditions of the past, a symbol of the nation’s faith in the future.” Chandigarh was to reflect the aspirations of a freshly independent nation; there was no room for nostalgia. As the art historian Vikramaditya Prakash perceptively notes, “Nehru’s Chandigarh was not meant to be a prophecy of the future…but was intended as an expression of faith in the future—the belief that the modern way of thinking and doing things would allow the future to emerge."
The task of realizing Nehru’s vision fell to a group of functionaries of the state and politicians who trusted Western models and professionals to lead the way. The crucial choice to organize Chandigarh according to an early twentieth-century English utopian urban planning model was made by the first bureaucrat put in charge of the project, A.L. Fletcher. U.S.-based architect-planners Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicki were hired. However, after Nowicki’s unexpected death in 1950, the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier was appointed. Corbusier worked with a team comprised of his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, Maxwell Fry, and Jane Drew, assisted by a further design cohort of nine Indian architects and planners—M.N. Sharma, A.R. Prabhawalkar, B.P. Mathur, Piloo Moody, U.E. Chowdhury, N.S. Lamba, Jeet Lal Malhotra, J.S. Dethe, and Aditya Prakash.
Corbusier would personally draw up the Master Plan for Chandigarh, as well as the vast Capitol Complex where the major institutions of state were to be located, containing the High Court, Legislative Assembly, Secretariat, and the Governor’s Residence (though this last structure remains unbuilt). He would also prepare the guidelines for the commercial center, and in an adjoining sector, design a museum and school of art. The rest of the team worked on the majority of the other buildings within the city, with Jeanneret assuming a very active role because he lived in India for three years; Corbusier flatly refused to do so, and would only visit the country twice a year, for one month at a time. Ground was broken in September 1951 and since then Chandigarh has been incessantly filmed, and in particular Corbusier’s buildings.