Tag Archives: films

Q2P: Toilets and the City


The Students Council and Students of Color Committee of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and the South Asia Forum at MIT invite you to a screening of the documentary film “Q2P” directed by Paromita Vohra on FRIDAY 27 APRIL at 6.00 P.M. in the Audio-Visual Theatre in Room 7-431 at DUSP, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139.


(Documentary, 2005, 53 minutes, DV, English, Hindi)


Who is dreaming up the global city? Q2P peers through the dream of a futuristic Mumbai and finds… public toilets… not enough of them.

As this film observes who has to queue to pee, we begin to understand the imagination of gender that underlies the city’s shape and the constantly shifting boundaries between public and private space.

We meet whimsical people with novel ideas of social change, which thrive with mixed results. We learn of small acts of survival that people in the city’s bottom half cobble together. In the Museum of Toilets, at a night concert, in a New Delhi “international toilet”, in a Bombay slum, we hear the silence that surrounds toilets and sense how similar it is to the silence that surrounds inequality.

The toilet becomes a riddle with many answers and some of those answers are questions – about gender, about class, about caste and most of all about space, urban development and the twisted myth of the global metropolis.

Shree 420

raj420zq1.pngWe will be screening Raj Kapoor’s classic film Shree 420 on TUESDAY 9 MAY 2006 from about 5.45 to 8.45 p.m., with discussion to follow. Released in 1955 and set in Bombay, Shree 420 is one of the most influential products of the booming fifties Bombay film industry, and a canonical representation of urban life in the postcolonial city.

Shree 420 names itself in a contradiction. Article 420 of the postcolonial Indian Penal Code provides juridical sanction for the prosecution of acts of cheating or fraud; Shree is a standard appellation of respect, naming a modern Mister, or denoting a gentleman. And this gentlemanly cheat is, in the text of the film examined here, embodied in the equally ambiguous figure of the subaltern hero Raj Kapoor — the tramp bumbling his way through the gullies and crowded, inhospitable streets of that favoured location of the 1950s popular Hindi cinema: the metropolis of Bombay, the privileged place for the production of the newly independent nation’s identity and the socialist vision. Hailed by cinema audiences throughout the new republic on its release in 1955, Raj Kapoor’s tramp-hero Raju was the cinematic embodiment of an unique historical conjuncture of the new Indian republic. The educated unemployed, the urban proletariat, Partition refugees, and the reformist petty bourgeoisie could all identify with Raju, newly arrived in the steamy concrete jungle of Bombay, following the noisy and irresistible path of the new expansive capitalism in search of distinction, prosperity, and a certain experience of modernity.


sarkar.jpgOur next screening is tomorrow SATURDAY 19 NOVEMBER at 9.00 P.M.

Based on the Godfather, Sarkar (2005) is the last in an unique trilogy of films by director Ram Gopal Varma on the Mumbai criminal-political underworld. Satya (1998), the first film in the series, was a new kind of gangster film which hit the theatres when the city was the setting of major gangland warfare in the mid-nineties. Company (2002), its sequel, was a fictionalised tale of the rise of the real-world Mumbai dons Dawood Ibrahim and his understudy Chhota Rajan (Small Rajan), their subsequent split and war with each other, and the criminal-politician nexus which extends to the highest levels of the state. ‘Satya’ is the Gandhian-Ashokan motto of the Indian state, and ‘Company’ signifies the modern firm, but also the earlier form of the colonial state and its commercial empire. ‘Sarkar’ appropriately finishes this trilogy. Literally translated as ‘government’ but also a term of address to superiors in colloquial Hindi, Sarkar is a cognate for Godfather. Amitabh Bacchan plays a character based on the nativist political boss of Mumbai, Balasaheb Thackeray, chief of the Shiv Sena (Army of Shiv), the party machine which still rules Mumbai politics. Sarkar is about the rise and fall of this party and its ruling family. Along with Satya and Company, Sarkar explores the split domains of organised crime and politics in Mumbai, and related themes of business, morality, and the law.

On request, we will also screen either Satya or Company around 6.30 p.m. tomorrow before the main film.