Meet futuristic cyborg Meenakshi, on a mission to protect Indian tradition

Cultural cyborg Meenakshi is the protagonist of Elsewhere in India

Cultural cyborg Meenakshi is the protagonist of Elsewhere in India
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Meenakshi, the cyborg, is out of labor. The once-dancer finds herself within the dystopian panorama of 2079 the place all tradition is in peril of being misplaced. She is in determined pursuit of familiarity, holding on to nodes of South Asian heritage, extra particularly, the South Indian arts that outline her. In a silo devoid of tradition, she re-examines her position as an artiste and is joined by two others: Murthovic and Thiruda. Bear in mind these names. 

This narrative isn’t one straight out of an Indian sci-fi movie — slightly, it units context to musician Murthovic (MSR Murthy) and visible artist Thiruda’s (Avinash Kumar) multi-sensory, audio-visual efficiency that extends to an interactive movie/artwork recreation. They envision a world a lot right into a future the place cyborgs and alternate realities are the norm. This multi-sensory mission, although characterised by know-how that laymen won’t but be aware of, has inevitable connections to southern India. Whereas the soundscape units the temper for curiosity, drenched in dystopia, but wrapped in a comforter of acquainted Carnatic riffs, the attention-grabbing visuals take assist from objects that outline South Indian heritage. 

Watch | On Elsewhere in India

It is a mission that can doubtless undergo many phases of growth, as extra museums, libraries and a repertoire of fast-growing tech result in totally different manifestations. As an illustration, it’s an album; a recreation; efficiency artwork; and an academic instrument; all on the similar time. Over Zoom, the duo who premiered the soundtrack on the recently-concluded arts and music pageant Magnetic Fields, says they may proceed to work on it by most of 2023. 

A still from the live performance at Magnetic Fields

A nonetheless from the dwell efficiency at Magnetic Fields
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“Meenakshi is a cultural cyborg. In our lore, it refers to the concept that she was a part of a line of cyborgs produced to show tradition and protect concepts round dance and music, and share it with society throughout the 2050s. Then, a worldwide AI collapse abruptly ends cyborg manufacturing. She is left as one of many few relics that has this cultural information,” says Avinash. The narrative goes towards the favored perception that tradition is a limiteless pool. “It should run out, like another useful resource, sooner or later. It additionally displays on the connection between know-how and tradition, and appears at how know-how might be repurposed to create sub cultures.”  

Murthovic in action

Murthovic in motion
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The genesis of Elsewhere in India might be partly credited to Antara, a 3D online game that the group had labored on, which follows a Bharatnatyam dancer (impressed by Bharatnatyam exponent Jayalakshmi Eshwar) and her son. It talks of aeronautics by the medium of puzzles.  “We realised we had this thirst to return to our origins within the Digital Dance Music scene. And we have now been exploring these concepts on heritage, and science fiction set previously — what if we push this story 150 years into the longer term,” says Avinash. The questions had been many: what would occur to the central character of a dancer in that point? What would occur in a post-apocalyptic India the place heritage and tradition could be a uncommon prevalence, the place there won’t be sufficient assets or experience in society?

“We needed to have a look at how we will talk dance and music inside a online game surroundings. However this time, we needed to have a look at it as extra of an audio-visual efficiency,” says Avinash. The inflexion level for this mission, that has been within the making for many of the pandemic, was once they acquired the India/UK Collectively, A Season of Tradition grant from the British Council, that enabled them to report over 40 musicians, the likes of Dilruba Saroja and Dharani (gaana singer), from components of South India. 

Provides Hyderabad-based digital musician Murthy, “It was an awesome alternative to journey and work with musicians at a rudimentary degree. They weren’t established musicians, they had been depending on stage exhibits, weddings and  funerals. Working with conventional musicians and folklore at this magnitude was a primary for us.” Initially, he was undecided whether or not compositionally, the music was going to be funk, hip hop, disco or folklore-centered. “It’s a mixture of totally different worlds however people music stands on the centre. Our sarod participant is from Kolkata, whereas our dubki and iktara gamers are from Shantiniketan,” he provides. 

The identical ethos is adopted within the visuals as properly, provides Avinash. “It’s a respectful nod to all of the heritage we have now. We’ve got been doing lots of work to be true to that.” To that finish, even among the conventional objects which are seen within the gameplay are digital sculpts of actual objects in museums like DakshinaChitra in Chennai.  “We labored on 3D scanning and 3D modelling of round 50 of their objects just like the ratha, furnishings, house structure and decorative packing containers,” says Avinash. The British Nationwide Library, British Movie Institute and Victoria & Albert Museum are all contributors of archival analysis.  

One of the digital human avatars in the story

One of many digital human avatars within the story
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particular association

The duo is now getting ready for a 12 months of dwell exhibits beginning with a efficiency at The Worldwide Science Competition in Hyderabad this weekend. They’re set to carry out on the Adelaide Fringe in February as properly, adopted by exhibits within the UK by April.   

Elsewhere in India will probably be carried out in Hyderabad on January 21 at 6.30pm as a part of the India Science Competition 2023. ISF 2023 is scheduled to be held at Hyderabad Public Faculty, Begumpet.

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