The Mars Exploration

Filmmakers Sahej Rahal and Pallavi Paul recreate life on the planet in an experimental movie

A couple of years ago, when the Mars One Project was announced, and over 2,00,000 applicants expressed their interest to move bag and baggage in tow to the planet, filmmakers Sahej Rahal and Pallavi Paul couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would want to be part of such a mission. Not only did the thought of establishing a human colony outside of Earth appear bizarre, but also the fact that there were so many people in the rat race for a one-way ticket to the Red Planet.

Their curiosity became a source of inspiration for their first experimental documentary together — The Common Task — that will be screened at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum this month. The film is woven around the stories of two Indian applicants — engineer CV Kamesh (53) and researcher Roena Mathew (25) — who wanted to make this journey in 2023. They had sent in their applications, but couldn’t make the cut due to a stringent selection process.

Sahej Rahal

Funded by the India Foundation for the Arts, the movie explores the philosophical possibilities of inter-planetary travel and life in space, through the eyes of the protagonists. “It’s is a rich amalgamation of various ways of imagining this incomprehensible journey,” says 28-year-old Paul about the film.

Pallavi Paul
Pallavi Paul

“We obviously don’t have a sense of what the Martian world feels or look like. So in order to recreate the cinematic experience of what it would be like to live there, we’ve patched together a series of interviews with the applicants, personal archives, like their home and travel videos, several scientific data, fantasy images and animation, among other things. More than visual, it’s a sensorial narrative of imagining space travel.”

The Common Task uses videos, scientific data and animation to bring alive the cinematic experience of living on Mars
The Common Task uses videos, scientific data and animation to bring alive the cinematic experience of living on Mars

The idea, said Rahal (27), was to use documentary material and re-stage it as fantasy. “We wanted to show how these two travellers were imagining the landscape and life in Mars, and what they intended to do with their time, if they had an opportunity to live there,” he said.

The duo first began work on their experimental video in 2014, when they learnt that a lot of Indians had applied for the Mars One project.

After extensive rounds of interviews with over 10 to 12 applicants across India, the filmmakers narrowed down on Kamesh and Roena. “We chose them simply because there was a lot of vigour in their imagination. It was not just another infatuation towards Mars, they had actively thought about why they wanted to leave Earth,” said Paul.

The film, which was earlier screened in Kolkata and Delhi, intends to raise some questions. “What we are talking about here is an irreversible exit to space. So, it definitely raises existential questions about cosmic ambitions, starting civilisation in another world from scratch and building a new life again.”

WHERE: Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
WHEN: May 5, 6.30 PM
CALL: 23731234

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