Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chitrasutram/ Image Threads.. a Karmic film

After watching the avant-garde Malayalam film Chitrasutram by Vipin Vijay, I felt it perfectly defined the concept of Pitra Karma... a genetic curse carried across generations until the protagonist provides salvation and resolution. I wrote an anlytical review on it:

Deleuze in his Difference and Repetition says, “Difference allows us to pass from one order of repetition to another and from one generality/ modality to another..”.
In Chitrasutram,  the difference in spatio- temporal time zones between netizen Hari and his black magician grandfather enables the faithful repetition, reenactment  of the genealogical curse, ancestral Karmic residue. Of  phallic castration at the feet of illusion incarnate.
It is sheer external, phenotypal difference that enables to faithfully re-enact internal, & genotypic repetition. The more things change (on the outside) more they stay the same (inside). The parallel backdrops of information networking and black magic are entwined as  symbolic/abstract planes where the universal meta narrative/ storyline unfolds.

Chitrasutram, i.e. Image Threads basically explores the metaphysical discourse of the Image. Its politics, dailetics, deconstruction and proliferation. The initial birth of the image in the primordial human condition as a signifier of the conceptual, the sacred, the abstract. And the extrapolition of  image in the cyber age into simulacra, virtual avatars, cyber simulations. Image becoming more real than the actual.
In the scene showing a parade/ float of robotic appartions depicting religious scenes, mechanically simulated mythic icons, the first machinistic inception of simulacra unfolds. From that primitive beginning of stumbling preprogrammed mechanical movements,   simulation exponentially transgresses into the realm of virtual reality. No longer mechanically limited/ grotesque, but the world of the infinite imagery, seamlessly, electronically exchanged. A cybernetic reality more powerful and efficient  than the real. The transformation of Image into virtual avatars.  The voyeuristic obsessive domain of role playing and virtual interaction. The Role playing taking over the player. The signifier taking over the signified. The mask becoming more real than the hidden face.  

From the first scene Hari is shown on the quest of image, of selecting a perfect image for his desktop. He contemplates about the sacred four corners of the frame. In front of his class of Networking students he declares “It’s a miracle what happens on the screen”.
For him the digital image is the divine, Cybernetic Representation, the sublime.  
He stoically introduces himself as a Network Trainer, “a pimp for expert Information technology labour’. He is comfortable with his cynical self image, his chosen profession..
But at night he becomes a cyber black magician. Seeking magical secrets in virtual reality. He initiates a cyber love affair with unknown Ramani. He creates a virtual avatar of the Goddess Varthali, the Iconification of their online love.  

Ramani questions Haris habit of playing curtsy to his grandfather before  each interaction. Hari responds that he and his grandfather are the same person, existent in different time zones. For him Virtual reality and black magic, is one and the same process. A form of higher informational technology that requires belief.
Hari compares his grandfather  to scientist, mathematician Claude Elwood Shannon, the father of information theory. He believes his grandfather’s ritual programming through genetic lineage has enabled him to transcend the information superhighway and enter the realm of black magic. His ancestry destines him to be a self proclaimed prince of darkness, in the virtual realm. Ramani declares her love for the virtual prince.

For Ramani the internet  provides the ideal medium for interaction. Its  perfect anonymity enables interaction of absolute strangers in hyperspace. The precondition of absolute distance providing the safety/ conveneince for absolute intimacy. Initially she rejects Hari as the data base of her acquaintance list is full. Yet she is open to acquaint herself with Hari. Because they share no common interests. Its the detachment of virtual anonymity that enables Ramani to share her initimacy with Hari. Her shattered dreams, secret hopes, deepest personal disappointments and background of chronic hysteria. Visceral trauma, childhood scars, and adult disillusionment shared in  seamless digital anonymity and efficacy.  

The ‘physical’ consummation of Hari and Ramani’s cyber affair takes place in the domain of pure light. Surrounded by a neon net, she lies on a bed of light and makes love to a phallus shaped light tube. Perfectly depictive of the erotic mechanics of cyber sex. Where the phallic light rays from the screen penetrate the vulva of our retina simulating our cortex. The mechanics of  simulated optical intercourse.  

The first foray into taboo, the prohibited begins with the sorcerers visit of Vallapuzha village for tutorage under his prodigal uncle for medicine and magic.
He sleeps with his gurus wife, steals his uncles magical scerets, and caught red handed, kills his own uncle, his teacher. In his dying breath his uncle curses him with the prophecy of  his destruction through sleeping with a hermaphrodite.
In Hari’s life, the curse manifests as a cyber love affair with a hermaphrodite who calls himself Sweetheart and disguises himself a girl.
Sweetheart and Hari interact in a bizarre machinistic, cybereal sex. Convoluted perversion of role playing. Sexual simulation by fax machines. Body as an extension into machines. The realm of Croneberg’s body simulation. 

 After Sweetheart, Hari attempts to violate his virtual taboo with Ramani, the taboo of anonymity. He asks about Ramani’s wheelchair, attempting to remove the veil of mystery between them. The inviolable condition of  secrecy, vital in virtual role playing is shattered. Ramani reminds him that this very veil of  secrecy enables their virtual love affair to exist. The vital veil of separation that separates the Signifier and signified,  image and actual. The attempt of removal signals the end of their Virtual relationship.

Disllusioned, Hari attempts to regresses. By plunging into the annals primitive information sharing. Basic printing blocks, churning out pulp fiction. The linear narrative of the detective pulp thriller sprinkled with basic erotic fantasies. The dissemination of image and information at the lowest, basic level. The sincerity of the pulp.

Haris post orgasmic chill. Withdrawal into the ruin of his abandoned house, his mentally challeneged cousin stuck in her infantile world of dreams. Her repetition of Ringa rainga roses, pocket full of posies. Originally aterm denoted in 18th century England to depict the symptom of Balck death, the plague. Now transmitted across the ages in the death chill of a inocuos childrens rhyme. The serpentine trickery of commincation and (mis)representation. The politics of simulacra and the signifier.

Kunjukuttan seeks now to esacpe from the endless bondage of desire. He now aims for the most fearful of his magical ambitions: direct physical communion with Goddess Varthali. Finally finding her in a muddy pond he drags her out and freezes her into a  staue. And finally castrates himself at the feet of the goddess. Phallocnetric castration as the only means of  liberation from the bondage of the signifier/ role playing.

Hari frantically attempts to make direct contact with Ramani. She responds that he exists for her merely as a sign, signifier, a virtual symbol. She has already replaced Hari with a new cyberlover. Her parting words to Hari “I want to exit your life, like a mere shadow”. Assuaging the ethereal, temporality transience, of their torrid cyber interaction.
Standing on a pile of discarded dolls, her uncountable  abandoned avatars, Ramani finally severs the umbilical cyber cord between her and Hari. Bringing an end to the assemblage,cyber construct, the desire machine between them. The violent breakdown of a virtual love. Leaving only residues of molten plastic, synthetic waste, and burnt out cicrcuitry.

Realization dawns on Hari in the grounds of a semi submerged forgotten abandoned stone monastery. Three wise men gather and announce;
“For the gate is wide, and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and way is Hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few..”.
Hari abandons his electronic apparatus, his clothes, his trappings and cleanses himself in a holy bath in a lonely river bank.
Finally he enters a primitive photo studio with ancient box camera and freezes his image  into a narrow limited confine of  a standard passport photograph. In the narrow limitation, of his image lay his means of liberation.
In Vedic cosmology, Rahu Ketu represent the two Nodes. Rahu stands for ultra wide/ visionary/ surreal/ virtuality and Ketu stands for the narrow/hard/ obscure way of redemption, sacrifice and eventual liberation. Broadly Rahu embodies desire/power/projection and Ketu signifies wisdom/renunciation/liberation. Rahu ensnares by mass media, hysteria of consumerism but Ketu liberates in the silence of narrow,  renunciated reflection. In the world of illusions finally Hari chooses Ketu over Rahu.  His release from the genetic curse.

The movie explores the meta narrative of cyclicity. Where as opposed to linear evolution things  move in repetitive cyclic patterns. The high speed unrestricted information superhighway ultimately falls prey to its own pawn/creation in form of a virus.  
In the end fantastic progress succumbs to the fruits of its own creation. A natural consequence as illustrated in Baudrillards Theorem of Accursed Share. Where every technological progressive move is irrevocably accompanied by a equivalent regreesive loss.  
Cyber simulation definitely allows infinite freedom/ role playing/ unlimited avatars, but are they capable of sustaining the euphoria of cybernetic desire.
Simulcara here is  not blatantly restricted to net but the very basic interactions between beings, misrepresentation at the cost of speed, ecstatic rupture of access/information as discussed in the theories of Baudrillard, Paul virilio.
Technology is a fantastic irrefutable convenience, but can the physical karma of mortality be so easily transgressed? Are we capacitated to transcend genetics, genealogy, the DNA coding so conveniently. In order to infuse ourselves with global neutrality/ freedom of virtuality promised by the cyberial? In the end it is we who limit ourselves.
Like the ultra virtual hermaphrodite Sweetheart finally finding midlle class Hari’s machinistic fantasies/obsession too hard an act to swallow. Such is the rule of paradox/irony. Difference as the irrevocable foundation/cause of Repetition.
Familiarity as the vital condition for radical exoticism. The painfully inconvenient and arduous process of Image creation. As opposed to the convenient mass proliferation.

Despite all its surreal, psychedelic, avante garde incorporations, Chitrasutram ultimately explores Pitri Karma. The ancestral karma/ deed/ curse carried across generations. An eternal Karmic deed faithfully re-enacted across time. And the ultimate resolution only occuring by enlightenment, liberation of the protagonist. Ultimately drawing to a close, the dramatic genetic re-enactment across generations and time spans.