Ruchir Joshi: short films and conversation with Tony Cokes

Memories of Milk City: Sketches for a Film on Ahmedabad, dir. Ruchir Joshi, India 1991, 13 min

Date: Sunday 26 March 2023

Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: ICA, Cinema 1


Memories of Milk City: Sketches for a Film on Ahmedabad, dir. Ruchir Joshi, India 1991, 13 min., English, Bengali and Hindi with English subtitles

Tales from Planet Kolkata, dir. Ruchir Joshi, India, 1993, 40 min., English, Bengali and Hindi with English subtitles

This programme features two short city films that Ruchir Joshi made following the three-year experience of Eleven Miles. Commissioned by Alan Fountain at Channel Four, both films focus on Indian cities in the early 1990s, respectively Ahmedabad in Memories of Milk City and the filmmaker’s hometown in Tales from Planet Kolkata, employing what Joshi describes as ‘the first-person diary, the subjective essay and the meditative-poetic form’ to engage critically with existing representations of these places and their inhabitants, and crucially to propose new forms and ways of thinking about them.

The text of Memories of Milk City is written and spoken by Gujarati playwright and novelist Madhu Rye, whose playful and poetic voiceover reflects on his ambivalent feelings towards the changing nature of ‘the city of my language, not my birth’, notably the Americanisation that comes with a certain economic prosperity, while Joshi’s mobile camera records ‘sketches for a film on Ahmedabad’, as the film’s subtitle declares: children, young people, families, going about their daily routines of work and pleasure, in the busy markets or the quiet backstreets, urban life caught in moving snapshots rather than images of fixed meaning.

A critique of typical imagery, again laced with humour, is explicitly central to Tales from Planet Kolkata, which gaily parodies and deconstructs Western-inflected cultural misrepresentations of India, and specifically Kolkata as either ‘the worst place in the world’, or conversely as ‘the City of Joy’ (indeed we see the making of Roland Joffé’s 1992 film of that name). But nor does Tales from Planet Kolkata ever posit a supposedly correct representation of Indian reality, instead there are always multiple possibilities, forms and questions. As if to underline this point, Joshi himself appears in the role of a grotesque ‘French’ filmmaker struggling to understand the truth of Indian urban life, while Tony Cokes plays a ‘rickshaw puller’ criticising Western presuppositions and fantasies about India. 

Following the screening, Ruchir Joshi will be in conversation with artist Tony Cokes.

With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership and Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin).