10.12 mins | 2008 -2009

All is Fair in Magic White is a satirical account of aspiring, tumultuous, dirty and densely populated Mumbai and its hope for a picture-postcard conversion into a global megapolis of the future.

Editor: Abeer Gupta
Sound Design: Boby John
Animator: Sarat Nayak
Block Cutters:Deenbandhu Adak, Sitaram Adak, Asit Chakraborty
Block printer: Tarak Das
Studio: Experimenta, Kolkata and Majlis, Mumbai

Archana Hande is a Mumbai based artist and curator. Originally trained as a printmaker at Santiniketan and MSU Baroda, Hande works in a variety of mediums including installation, drawing, and video.

Interview of Archana Hande with Charu Maithani

Charu Maithani [CM] // You are trained as a printmaker and work in various medium. What kind of idea instigates you to make a video work?

Archana Hande [AH] // I have always been interested in moving images. When I used to do printmaking, there were a lot of influence of films in my image making practice. I used to love the idea of jumping reels, as I am the generation who has experienced the film negative reels. Technically, video is like a print with similar features like reverse viewing, multiple edition, some kind of registration, having a story board and graphics in thought.

For me technique, image and the story go side by side. For example, when I was writing the script for All is fair in Magic White, I knew the format had to be a video and block print. The story talks about migration, labour, urban/rural, ethnic marketing, social work, classicism and race, using both video and block print. Both techniques have an equal weightage in telling the story. I started scripting the technique while writing the script of the video, as the use of the technique has to be justified. One can’t use any media if it doesn’t talk for itself.

CM // Can you talk a little about the animation technique that you have used to make All is Fair in Magic White and how does it relate to the work?

AH // When I conceived this video, it was written for a stop motion animation. But, it didn’t work for me as I wanted to have a look and feel of an animated book. So I made story board at the scale of 6ft by 4ft using wood blocks. Then I painted all the sequences, photographed it and reversed the technique using Photoshop. I still like the idea of the hand crafted technique combined with digital media. For me only digital becomes too artificial.

After I wrote the script – I visualized the characters, sketched the story board and the landscapes. I invited wood block cutters, Deenbandhu Adak, Sitaram Adak and Asit Chakraborty. They beautifully cut the blocks and took almost took three months to finish. Then along with block printer Tarak Das I printed the story onto the cloth. Thirty sequences of block printed story board in the size of 6 feet by 4 feet and few scrolls of 16 feet where used in the film. The block print was used as a still motion film. So, I tried to use the character of the block throughout the story.

For this film the journey was not so smooth – I had to try few technical options and language to arrive at the stage that is seen in the video. It was important that it should not look like a sleek animated film.

CM //  Many times you multiply a concept and make several works around the same concept, expanding it with every iteration. Like Arrange Your Own Marriage exists as a website ( and as an installation. Is it insufficiency of a medium that pushes you to keep exploring the concept?

AH // It depends on the project. Some ideas lead the project to another level, some stay and complete the project in one stage. But, for me all my projects are interlinked. As all of them are related to my travel logs, each work goes from one story to another. My works don’t have a beginning and an end. Arrange Your Own Marriage as a website and online store also spilled into a boutique – it was a marketing strategy. All is fair in Magic White is a video and an accordion book, as I wanted it to have a feel of a book. But, it never happens separately or consciously. It is a process and in that process I start developing the work.

I love labour oriented work, where I have to put physical and mental efforts into the making the work. I have realised that to ‘make-believe’ I have to work harder. As my work is on the edge of reality and fiction, fake and real, reel and real, authentic and non-authentic, creating a confused state is a challenge. I think that copying someone’s work or something that already exists is harder than creating something new as there is nothing to compare it with.  Many a times a copy becomes more original than the original. To make it look authentic and to ‘make believe’ I end up working in multiples. It is the ownership of the fake, copy or others property.

CM // All is Fair in Magic White explores notions of race, class, power and beauty deeply entrenched in our society. You use various symbols of representation like the characters are also represented by their pets. While the three upper class ladies (Maya, Mumtaz and Mary) have eagle, snake and tiger, which are animals of prey, the man from Dharavi (Ali) has a turtle. You combine stereotyping and satire to go beyond critiquing the contemporary; you question the very foundations of our contemporary thinking. All this is done without any voice over in the video; just the urban iconography tells the story. Could you elaborate on that.

AH // You said it all – it never needed a voice over. If an extra layer is used – it will always be ‘extra’.

I do use stereotyped iconography or metaphors. Living in the Third World (now called developing country) we are bound to have many layers of complexity. It is hard to escape that. I love the fact that you can say things without being direct but also be quite upfront by using image, phrase, situation or character, which speak directly for itself. The span of abstract expression of the stereotyped iconographical metaphor is huge, but it has to be used in a proper way – it has to be well timed. For me ‘time’ and ‘layered humor’ are the key words.

CM // Like several other works, All is Fair in Magic White is a fictionalized account of the people of Mumbai echoing in reality. The encounter of three entrepreneurs of South Bombay, Maya, Mumtaz and Mary, with Ali in Dharavi. You do a lot of research, some lasting for more than a couple of years, before making the work. In that sense, a fictional account of Ali also becomes a story of you, as you are telling the story. These overlapping subjectivities and boundary between truth and fiction is quite hazy. Is that one of reasons that you present fictionalized narratives?

AH //  Yes, as the story comes out of my travels so they are my stories. It doesn’t need to be real. I always got attracted towards fiction, fake and surreal which makes language more excisable, debatable and unattached. To give an example – today the issue of nationalism, purity or the sense of ownership has become conservative and intolerant. As I said before ‘to make-believe you have to work harder than the real thing’.

August 2016