archana hande



All is Fair in Magic White
2008 - 2009

Video installation, animation duration: 10min

Animation stills / Scrolls/ Book

solo show:

Nature Morte annex New Delhi, 2009
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All is fair in Magic White


Maya, Mumtaz and Mary are the best of friends. Inseparable, they open a fancy private club called Cucoo’s in South Bombay, meeting each other in peace everyday after toiling away socially as wives of leading industrialists of the city. All three have everything they could wish for, and more. Maya and her pet, Black Scarf the Eagle live in Akash* Villa. She works out of home for her company, Sky Cables. Mumtaz can never part with Grey Bond the Snake. She is spotted frequently standing in the balcony of her ancestral bungalow, Blue Castle, where Grey Bond coils around the railings as she whispers crisp orders into her phone to her managers at M&M Co Ltd. Mary and White Streak the Tiger prowl the corridors of West India Trading Co. Every evening, she takes off in a helicopter towards Mill Estates inspecting work on her land’s extension to the middle of the sea. Rumour has it that masters and pets have strikingly similar spirits, even their faces resemble each others’. But pets, jets, companies and bungalows cannot animate the long silences at Cucoo’s when night after night, Maya, Mumtaz and Mary swivel on tall stools, watching TV. The three friends wonder at the state of their city and resolve to give a facelift to dirty and poor Bombay through the new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes in their companies.

They initiate a ‘Clean Mumbai’ campaign and quickly abandon it when one night, they see a TV report on Dharavi, the second largest slum in the world. Curious, they Google Earth Dharavi and spend the entire night following links from one website to another. Shivering with excitement, they gulp down every single detail of the largest conglomeration of sweatshops and small-scale industries in India. ‘Why, this is one humongous shopping mall!’ exclaims Maya as the other two nod their heads in unison. Instinctively, they all know they have found THE cause to pursue. ‘We will help the government of India turn Bombay into Shanghai one day’ Mumtaz asserts as they watch an analysis on world cities on a news channel. ‘With our help, the future would come closer to the citizens of this city’ Mary proclaims and a flurry of activity follows the night of revelations. They make a decision to focus on low risk projects, personal favorites like child labor, Aids, education and polio to assist rehabilitation in Dharavi.

Maya, Mumtaz and Mary visit Dharavi with their research teams, knowing fully well that field work was of upmost importance to the success of the project. Navigating the sweaty labyrinths of the endless lanes in the slums, the three women feast their eyes on the variety of things on display in Dharavi. Every little house seems to be selling something or the other. A colorful looking leather sweatshop catches Maya’s eye. ‘Let’s pick up something new and outlandish to wear at Cucoo’s tonight’ she giggles as they enter the shop. The rest of the team stands outside, waiting uncomfortably for the three women to come out. Mumtaz glances at them, and elbows Maya and Mary. Pretending their sole purpose was to initiate a conversation with the owner of the shop, they ask him crisp questions only to reveal a rich man with no problems that the women can help with. But he has a question for them, if they could answer him, ‘as you are educated madams and I am not’. He starts his question by narrating his biography….

‘I have a leather unit called Ali leather industry (ALI) and a pet turtle named Suzuki. I own 2 shops, 1 big and 1 small workshop cum living space and 40 laborers. I migrated to Mumbai from a village in North India when I was 16 years old to earn bread for my family. I worked under Chacha**, learnt the skills of the leather industry and in a few months became Chachaji’s favourite employee amongst 50 other workers. I married and my wife gave birth to a very dark girl after a year, as dark as your Eagle’, he said, pointing his finger at Black Scarf.

‘After a few years, I opened my own unit, separating from Chachaji. It is now that my second daughter was born, as white as your tiger’, he told Mary. ‘My question is, why was my second daughter born fair, since both my wife and I are dark, and that too, once I was rich? Is there a relationship between class and race?’

The three ladies stare at him in silence. Not able to come up with a suitable reply, they rush back to their offices and start a joint Research and Development unit to collect data through latest democratic methods- TV polling, voting through sms- to find an answer to his question. While they can’t get an exact answer to his question, they think they know the perfect solution to Ali’s problems. ‘Aren’t we women ourselves?’ Maya asks. Mumtaz and Mary can’t help but agree. They launch a product called Magic White, which is a combination of nourishing proteins and bleaching agents to make the skin white.

A beautiful and fair complexion is not a matter of luck
Magic White has proved it time and again
Reasonable and affordable
All is Fair in Magic white.

* Akash: Sky

** Chacha: Uncle, used as sign of respect for someone senior or elder. Literal usage- father’s younger brother.









group show:

Tell tale: fiction, falsehood & fact, curated by Dr Paula Sengupta, Gallery Experimenter, Kolkata. 2009
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About the film—

All is Fair in Magic White is a satirical account of aspiring, tumultuous, dirty and shockingly populated Bombay and its hope for a picture-postcard conversion into a global megapolis of the future. A touch of historicity complicates this troublesome vision by raising questions of power, class and race. A deceptively simple account of popular notions of female beauty reveals not only deeply entrenched cultural and economic inequalities in the post colonial city but also comments on disturbing repercussions of attempts at molding Bombay to resemble those cities that are now discovering far bigger problems of their own. An experiment that ingeniously employs traditional block printing techniques as aesthetic principles governing the storytelling art of this digital film, Archana Hande comments on life, and art. She criticizes the Indian, still post-colonial condition that stimulates an incessant need for magic potions that some think might help whiten existence in her part of the world.

Nupur Jain
Research Scholar
Centre for Arts and Aesthetics JNU