The Latent City – a documentary which made me think, “Why Documentaries?”

So if it wasn’t for Natya, my Friday evening would have been all facebook and black coffee’s. But I end up on the eighth the floor of Surya Kiran building, at Indian Institute of Human Settlement, watching a semi-documentary – The Latent City.

The ‘cinema’ walked on a thin line, between a documentary and an art-work, never boring you for the whole 60 minute span. 48oC was one of the (first, so they claim) largest installation art exhibition in India. It happened in 2008, sponsored by Max Mueller Bhawan – the international cultural arm of German Government. The installation talked about the cultural heritage of the city, with an objective to create awareness and ultimately save them from the shoddy conditions they are in.

If you ask me whether the movie justified the so assumed objective, well not exactly. With some brilliant music score from Sushmit Sen (Indian Ocean fame) and some carefully done editing, it was a treat for your eyes. The documentary also justified the documentation of the event, which was the objective of producing this movie by Max Mueller Bhawan.

However, i am not here to write a review on the documentary, i am too inexperienced for that. I hardly understand the technicality of the same.

My question is why is a documentary created. In a viewer’s perspective, documentaries are like travelogue. They chalk down the history, present and future without any make-up. A director and his crew is like Marco Polo or Ibne Battuta and their team. They document the changes (for good or bad), all facts and no gloss. For historical records and an artistic satisfaction for the team, almost all those brilliant documentaries (i have seen) justifies.

But is that all? Is it just a historical record or an award winning show piece at a film festival. I think documentaries should be made with a new objective – an objective to reach to the masses and make difference. For that, they need to be simple yet artistic. For that they also need to be relevant with a projection of how future would be, if we fail to respond. I miss such cinema’s or artworks with a visibly-hidden message.

They do not ask you to do something but questions you about what you think shall happen if you do not respond. After all, for a change to happen, the masses should initiate and for them to initiate, their ego’s should be pampered such that, everyone should suggest a common solution – a solution which only Einstein would be able to suggest, generally. But again, this is my perspective!


  1. The movie: The Latent City by Krishnendu Bose
  2. The screener: Indian Institute for Human Settlements

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