Episode 1: Streets.
Parking our maal at city electricals, Hauzrani.
Abid, from city electricals helps lay the cables.
Airplane, Huzoor! ...and thumbs down.
On the cart outside Shahnawaaz's junkyard.
Muzameel raps, Abid DJ asks if they want more tunes.
Crowd outside Zeeshan electricals
Outside city electricals.
Asif on the steps of Zeeshan electricals.
Muzameel with TereNaam style for Shadab
Shadab, Radhe Radhe gets poetic.
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Walk anywhere east in Khirkee Extension and within 100 mts. you will find the street names on shop signs changing adulterously. In these double-edged lanes you could be in Hauzrani and Khirkee Extn. at the same place or Malvia Nagar and Khirkee Extn and so on. Even though Khirkee village, Khirkee extn. Hauzrani and Malvia Nagar are distinct entities on a map; their boundaries are quite naturally porous, determined apart from many histories by aspirational demography and ghetto mentality. So a more ‘pakka’ part of Khirkee extn. sees itself as Malvia Nagar, and a more Muslim dominated extn, is dubbed Hauzrani, existing as they sometimes do right in the middle of the Extension.
So a right-left-right and left from Khoj and we find ourselves in a Hauzrani part of Khirkee Extension. We walked up to a large at the Top of the T-junction. City Electricals beckoned us, a large and safe place to park our wares while we went back for more. Mohamad, a daily wage labourer (who continued to work with us on other episodes) transported most of the TV's and cables on his cycle redi in two trips; the smaller parts we carried with us.
We spoke to Imran, the young owner of City Electricals, telling him about the project. “Its called Khirkeeyaan” (window vehicle). “Through this device we hope to allow people to talk to each other and generate media that belongs to this street.” “Oh, an aina”, said imran, a mirror. “Exactly”, I said excited. “But what the point of it?” “The same point as going for a movie, watching tv or reading a book”, I said. “You mean, entertainment, information, time pass… then it's samaaj kaam (society work) you are doing after all! It’s for the people! Sure, you can use our shop."
We decided to also host the patch bay at City Electricals. Straight down the T-junction from city was KIM Electricals, a largish shop overlooking a construction site. This required road crossing, and Abid an electrician working at City Electricals lost no time going to a couple of houses to access the first floor balconies of neighbours and buttress our cables on their grills. Earlier when I had looked at the monster tangle of cables knotting into themselves at Khoj, I had wondered if we were doing the right thing. But one look skywards, at the canopy of assorted wires, cables and pipes, shading these by-lanes and I felt right at home. There was nothing out of the ordinary to add a few more cables to already existing electronic jungle.
To the right from city, about 60 metres down the lane, a group of young men readily agreed to host a TV outside their Kabadi shop. “You bring the Cable. We’ll arrange for the Power, said Shahnawaaz. It’s my brother’s shop. I know Bombay well, I’ve lived in Kurla.” The Fourth host was in a zigzag left of City Electricals in Jahapanah lane. A very tiny cul-de-sac Electricals,‘Zeeshan,’ flanked by beads and embroidery thread shops. It was coincidence that 3 of the four hosts were Electrical shops. They didn’t have TV’s in them, but enough extension boxes and power points! I had carted my 14” TV with me from Bombay, Khoj had one and we had rented 2 assembled boxes from Fareed’s VCD and repair shop in Khoj lane.
In one hour we had the lanes wired. The was an already curious crowd was in front of each shop. The cameras came on. The four screen mirror reflected the actions of kids who were pulling faces, waving at each other and flying toy airplanes into the frame. In our excitement, it took us a minute to realize that there was no sound, the mixer hadn’t been turned on…I ran to City Electricals, where our patch bay rested in the shelves under Imran and Irshad’s table and turned the mixer on. The first word that leapt through the wires and out of the TV….a loud and flat and all too haunting …..HuuuuaaaZooor!....
View Video Excerpt:
Get the player to see this.
…Tera tera tera Surooor! It was Shanawaz from the Kabadi, telling everyone that he was Himesh Reshamiya and this was an Indian Idol special. The younger kids yelled that he was completely besura, off-key, and hooted him with thumbs down.
Over the next entertaining hour, Khirkeeyaan was claimed by the kids and teens from the 4 lanes. Older men played amused bystanders and live audience. Musameel, T-baba, Dawood, Chota Shakeel…played out gang wars and everyone sang every song Himesh has every sung.
Muzameel, a 12-yr old from Kim Electrircals, did a beaty rendition of the Vishal-Shekhar hit anthem, Right Here, Right Now.
Ek mein aur ek tu hai, aur fiza mein jadoo hai;
Theres one me and one you, and theres magic in the air
Waqt ka kya bharosa, ban ke paani ud jaaye; ' ud jaayee nahin, beh jaaye!'
Can’t rely on time, it flies like water '…hey not fly, flows!'
Everything will be left to be said….
Right here right now…Right here right now.
At one point Abid became the DJ. He put the mic at City Electricals infront of his tape-deck and everyone sang along to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s melodious Jeeya dhadake dhadake jaaye…(from kalgug, one in a crop of recent bollywood movies referring to spy cams,) The kids at City Electricals sang with a fake mic in hand, Abid poked his head in with the mic,.. “did you like that, ok I’ll play you some more….”
One camera seemed to have a lose connection and it constantly went off. (one quadrant is blue screen). Manoj had to hold the wire in place, but no one seemed to care. It was the camera that was on the counter of Zeeshan electricals a tiny shop whose front was only 4 feet wide, but had the largest viewing crowd, that spilled into the lane behind. Here, the kids participating were often not seen, unable to get into frame, yet from here came the most melodious singing and sharp quick reflex retorts from Asif, a bright, young boy…We changed camera and TV positions at zeeshan a couple of times to include as many.
Asif’s shairee during the poetry exchange session still remains a favorite…
Kaun keheta hai ,
Karte hai ,
(Vah vah! Taleeyaan, Bravo! Applause!)
Then, Shadab, a handsome, affable young lad with a penchant for long middle-parted hair… (he was called … Radhe Radhe and TereNaam by the kids-in memory of Salaman Khan whose haircut in the movie launched a nation-wide trend, The TereNaam Cut. Incidentally, the clawing and equally popular TereNaam song was also by Himesh Reshamiya, back in the recent days of yore when he was just a chubby film musician and not the nasal singer and unshaven “rock star’!)
…asked Muzameel in the next screen to flatten his hair…
“You, peeli shirt wala, I like you the most...Make you hair like this. No, not like that…middle parting, yes that’s it, perfect! Now look at me, Cast your downward lookking gaze towards me. Hey come on, yes, like that...now listen….”
main tumhare zulf nahin jo khul ke bhikad jaoonga
I’m not your hair, coming undone is disarray
Then another kid from the bottom screen …
Khudi ko chadake kuch aise ki tese
You have elevated your own self in such a way
It was a dry intelligent one, but it fell flat…
Arre…Hasee nahin aayeee…Its not making us laugh!
Back in the studio we digitized the video feed and were amazed at how much repeat viewing it warranted. We wanted to watch the footage again and again, and each time we caught on to a new dynamism, another exchange; a joke there, another well timed aside or jibe here. 2-way or 3- way communication, many layers. This relatively simple interface made up of 4 cameras, 4 frontal eye level frames, feedback through a quadrant on 4- 14” TV’s, gave way to a space that was collaborative. Kind of web cam, kind of video conferencing, Khirkeeyaan’s salience (to my eyes at least) lay in the feedback happening in local time; Right here, Right now, in this hood, (for the hoods, by the hoods…) But seriously, a geographical bound of approx 150 sq. mts; and the TV, while looking just like some global news channel, was transformed from idiot box of passive viewing, to an immediate and interactive self-reflecting device which could be looked into and looked out of…
Arun, caretaker of khoj (whose nighttime preoccupation is ripping movies and downloading music) supplied us with all the songs that were sung. We mixed Himesh, Vishal Shekhar, Rahat Ali Khan and other artists into the edit and added a little of the ‘documentation’- at the end. (Shots from another camera walking through the lanes leading up to the 4 tv’s with the crowds.) We burned 4 cd’s and gave back to the host shops, with emphatic requests that they find their way to the kids by lending and copying.
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