Directed by Kurush Canteenwala
New Empire is a visually impressionistic, non-fiction film that attempts to chronicle a personal encounter with neo-colonialism and the accompanying loss of away of urban being. The encounter is set around the memory of an Irani restaurant in Bombay, “New Empire Restaurant and Bakery.” The restaurant is now a McDonald’s outlet. This films is constructed through images employing the different textural qualities of both Super 8 and 16 mm film. A formal simplicity is the pronounced governing aesthetic and is indicative of the personal nature of the document, and as a resistance to acceptable standards of marketable imagery.
New Empire Restaurant was located directly opposite victoria Terminus or C.S.T Station, which is frequently viewed (historically, architecturally and metaphorically) as the emblem of colonization, modernity and also conversely antiquity in Bombay. Irani restaurants themselves have been the spaces that have stood for the heterogeneous and democratic ethos that used to exemplify the popular social charater of Bombay, although they too are constructions from a previous encounter with imperialism.
The audio narrative is that of a group of friends talking about the changes in Bombay’s social spaces, as experienced by them. These conversations occur in the intimacy of the Irani’s public space, and were recorded in Irani restaurants where the filmmaker and his friends would meet. The idiom in which the encounter is recalled is local and non-formal. The temporality of the medium is employed to imagine a space, and a relationship that narrators, and the filmmaker had to time, within that space. The film engages broadly with the complex changes occurring in an urban landscape, post-globalization, but seeks to explore them from a personal point of view. It is also simply, like an evening spent at New Empire.