Phantom Lady or Kismet (1996-1998)

A photo-romance shot in Mumbai

Concept, production, direction: Pushpamala N
Photography: Meenal Agarwal
Cast:  Pushpamala N, Vinay Pathak and friends

25 black & white photographs, image size  10.6×16 inches,  each in an edition of 10

Robert’s Story

I was sitting behind the partition in Brabourne Restaurant after Sunday mass eating my bun maska, when I noticed a strange masked woman sitting alone at a table darting glances at me. She wore black velvet shorts, black tasseled boots, a big black cape and a black hat with a white feather in it. I thought I was in a film shooting. Her eyes rolled behind the mask and she crooked her finger at me furtively. She signaled me to join her at her table.

“I want the Don,” she hissed, “I knew you were a Robert the minute I saw your gold tooth. You must know everything.” “Madam” I said, “I used to be the Don’s right hand man once. I have now become a devout Catholic. In fact he should have finished me off long ago because I know so much. But life is strange. Maybe he is waiting for me to go back because every Don needs a Robert.”

“Robert, you must help me,” she said. “ I must expose this badmash and rescue my twin sister.” “Madam” I said. “I will try my best. But who are you and why are you dressed like this at 6.30 in the morning? You look as if you are going to ride off on a horse shouting ‘Hey Hey Hey!’”

“I am a small town girl who has had a tough life. I have nobody. I saw myself as a CID agent slipping in and out of the deep shadows of buildings, stalking and being stalked. I would wear a trench coat and a hat low over my face, chain smoking. Then I saw a picture of this costume. Satin, velvet, studded belt, armbands, tassels, feathers, jewellery. It’s glamourous. I like it. And I feel free.”

“Robert” she said, her voice dropping, “my twin sister and I were separated in childhood. She was lost and I remained… or maybe it is the other way around. She is bound and I am free… or maybe it is the other way around…”

She pulled her hat low over her face, glanced left and right and darted another look: “I don’t want to be a cliché, Robert… I want to explore the whole world.”

Pushpamala N


Installation as light boxes in a cinema lobby at the Berlinale 2010