Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Life Outside Earth

Artists Pallavi Paul and Sahej Rahal collaborate for a film that questions the politics and philosophy of the Mars One mission

Written by Pallavi Pundir |
May 18, 2016 12:05:08 am
Movie 1 Paul, 28, and Rahal, 27, are known for delving into the absurd and astonishing in everyday life.

The first glimpse of The Common Task, a 52-minute film made by Delhi-based video artist Pallavi Paul and Mumbai-based sculptor Sahej Rahal, is a dim homemade video of a father coaxing his daughter to recite a poem. The child concedes, with Chidiya Ka Geet (Song of the Bird), a popular Hindi rhyme often found in school syllabus. “Bahut bada hai ye sansaar (The world is boundless),” she sings, moving on to the protagonist’s discovery of a world that lays out there, beyond her eggshell, the branches, and finally, the sky. This opening sequence gives the viewer a sense of space and exploration, key elements in the theme of the film. The Common Task, which will be screened at the India Habitat Centre, Delhi, today, is a an experimental film that toys with the idea of space and time travel through the example of Mars One mission.

Paul, 28, and Rahal, 27, are known for delving into the absurd and astonishing in everyday life. This time, the duo chose the Mars One mission to explore their individual interests in science fiction and time travel. An advertisement of the Mars One mission, the programme that plans to send humans on a one-way trip to Mars, triggered it. “People were actually applying, including a lot of Indians, and it wasn’t necessarily people who are unhappy with their lives. These were people with perfectly functional lives with a clear idea of what they were doing,” she says.


In 2014, the two received a grant from India Foundation for the Arts and spent the next two years meeting applicants in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, zeroing in on two from Delhi, Rowena Mathew and CV Kamesh. “We not only followed their trail, but also our own philosophical trajectory,” says Paul, adding, “There is the larger question of setting up a civilisation. Are you going to imitate the pattern of a civilisation as seen on earth, or forge a new one?”

The filmmakers have also interspersed footage of landscapes (some shot in Punjab and Canada), to use as “allegories from places we have been to for a place we have no chance of seeing or shooting”. As the film culminates into an imagined world, the artists pose a final question, that of death. “An irreversible exit from the Earth was once death. It was inevitable. It is now an option,” says Paul.

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