Events in a Cloud Chamber
2016 / 21 minutes / India / 35mm / sound
In 1969, Akbar Padamsee, one of the pioneers of Modern Indian painting, made a film called Events In A Cloud Chamber. Shot on a 16mm Bolex, the film ran for six minutes and featured a single image of a dreamlike terrain. Inspired by one of Padamsee's own oil paintings, he experimented with a new technique of superimposing shapes formed with stencils and a carousel projector.
After just a handful of screenings, the film was shipped to an art expo in New Delhi where it was misplaced. The film existed only as a single positive print and there were no copies. This was possibly the birth of experimental film in India, but it ended before it began.
What was this mysterious film? A rare, spectral trace of India's forgotten avant-garde cinema, Events In A Cloud Chamber now exists only in memory. But can one rebuild a film from memory? More than 40 years later, filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia worked with Padamsee, currently 88 years old, to remake the film. Events In A Cloud Chamber (2016) is a result of their collaboration.
Like a maze that leads into endless other mazes, Events In A Cloud Chamber’s vanishing reads like a fable. More than just the disappearance of an artwork or an aborted attempt at an experimental film movement, it suggests ideas about mortality. As Padamsee, now in his twilight years, looks back, what does he see? Does art stop aging and preclude death? Like extinct languages and deathbed confessions, Events is ultimately a ghost story, meditating on vanished art, mortality and the phantoms that we leave behind.