Munem Wasif’s Kheyal 2015–18 follows four characters through the streets of Old Dhaka in Bangladesh. The title is derived from the Arabic word ‘Khyal’ or ‘Khayal’, meaning fiction or imagination, and the film captures the enigmatic environments and unique identities inhabiting the historic city. Living amid the grandeur of neglected Mughal architecture are dynamic social groups and spontaneous neighbourhoods that inhabit spaces around courtyards, narrow lanes and bustling bazaars. Movement and sound is nuanced and intimate, and recalls the hovering sounds of repeated vocals in the classical music known as ‘Kheyal’.
Wasif describes his film as a work of magic realism, where the lone characters are ‘lost in certain mental states and found in other magical situations’. Osman Ali revels in music though he longs to return to his village, Ranju is caught in a number of dark and strange dreamlike encounters, while the elderly Dadi stares motionless through a window, and young Nitu eats a pomegranate and skips on a rooftop. The film shifts between real and imagined narratives, navigating between the conscious and subconscious, and reveals the very different rhythm of life that inhabits the old city.
The work is first shown in 9th Asia Pacific Triennial Of Contemporary Art (Apt9), Brisbane. Produced with support from Bengal Foundation.