The film Aaj Kaal.
It has become commonplace to film elders. But it is not so usual for elders to make a film themselves. A little known film, Aaj Kaal (1990) was made over twenty years ago by South Asian elders, within a community education project based in Southall (London), directed by Avtar Brah and coordinated by Jasbir Panesar with the film trainer Vipin Kumar. The film is a powerful historical register and methodological tool in the further development of dialogic and participative methods and modes of engagement using media practices. As we embark on a raft of multi-media based research (pedagogic) practices, we have much to learn from the theoretical, political and practical mediations which informed this project.
Informed by radical forms of pedagogy and a commitment to adult education, the film provides a performative dialogic ethnography. It is notable for at least two reasons. Firstly, in terms of the methodological processes, it was forged in a reflexive project, attentive to the dynamics and practices of telling and listening with film. This was many years ahead of what has now become the burgeoning field of visual sociology. Secondly, the film offers a different enunciation of British post-war social scenes and transnational public spheres. Stories are told and performed by tellers who are usually off the radar in the crafting of histories of racism and anti-racist struggle from Southall.
In the finale of the film, the social and affective properties of gidda feature as an aspect of social scenes produced in British front rooms. Gidda is a dance formation through which Punjabi women have aired their joys and sorrows. It is full of gendered mimicry and risqué words, and moves which they have carried across continents and re-invented in the intimate territorialisation of diaspora space. For earlier generations, as we see in the film, the gidda sessions were central to how they settled and made Britain a home for themselves, in an admixture of pleasure, performance and gendered territory. It is in these private zones that they made their public lives together. These modes of coming together provide one layer, so far largely unregistered, of migration and settlement in the making of the post-war British front room.
Territories are not only made in the political battles on the streets. They are also generated in the social and cultural gatherings in homes, which function as semi-public spaces. Gidda instituted a performative shaping of architecture, with gendered bolian comprising the affective properties of taking occupation and home making together. The film offers a glimpse of the meeting places created by the first generation of Asian elders in day centres and the seaside; a view remote to David Parr’s depiction of the working-class British seaside.
1. For a closer excavation of Aaj Kaal and its ethical and creative antecedents, see Puwar, N. (2012) ‘Mediations on the Making of Aaj Kaal’, Feminist Review, Issue 100, 124-141. Available: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/fr/journal/v100/n1/full/fr201170a.html [↑]