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DEGREES OF SEPARATION

GURGAON

CURATORIAL NOTE

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Only two decades ago, Gurgaon was merely a vast tract of fertile, hinterland territory. It is now the ‘Millennial City of Gurugram’, an identity so formidable, that the land’s rich, mythological heft — it is believed that warrior academy run by Guru Dronacharya, the royal preceptor to both the heroes and villains in Mahabharata, was situated here — now lies largely ignored. Today’s Gurgaon, a giant, self-multiplicating organism, with its plethora of office complexes, apartment towers, golf courses and shopping malls, is the poster child of newly globalized India.

Around the world, mid-20th century urban architecture sought to shape itself around the ideas of inclusion and accommodation. Since land was limited, and reclamation slow, we prepared designs to colonise the sky: vertical cities were declared the future. There is little doubt that high-rises are indeed the only plausible solution to the paucity of land and the pressure exerted by an incoming immigrant population. However, the modular structure and design of the modern high-rise, has also ensured that it has now become a mechanism that perpetuates class division and segregation.

The layout of the private island of a prototypical apartment complex — sovereign, privatised; with the lives of its residents furnished with all the essential details: full-time security, water, back up electricity, parks, gyms, shops — results in the cultivation of a curious contrast between those who are inside, and conversely, those who are outside. High-rise architecture becomes therefore, in a country with a deeply entrenched, feudal past, a physical embodiment of class hierarchies. This architecture of segregation, not unique to modern cities, was prevalent in several oppressively capitalistic societies all the way from feudal Japan, ancient Rome to colonised Africa. The following set of films stands for the enormous role that urban architecture plays in sustaining and then preserving all manners of social and economic segregation.

FILMS

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