Parul Wadhwa

Parul Wadhwa, an Indian American virtual reality filmmaker, uses new technologies (AR/VR/XR) for social impact. (photo provided)

Indian American virtual reality director Parul Wadhwa’s new film, “Sandbox of Memory,” is a virtual reality experience about personal memories set against the background of the Partition of India in 1947.

In the film, the accidental discovery of a forgotten briefcase leads the protagonist, Navdha Malhotra, a third-generation partition descendent, to discover the lost identity of her grandfather, a refugee from the partition. What she unravels is a treasure trove of information about his identity.

His refugee documents, degree certificates and personal journal entries reveal to her the man he was during British colonial rule, and his eventual status as a “political sufferer” from the partition. 

“This virtual reality piece offers viewers an immersive experience of the life of Malhotra’s grandfather and his past as reflected in the refugee documents he left behind in Pakistan after immigrating to India,” Wadhwa said. “The viewers interact and ‘play’ in the environment, embarking on an experiential journey that leads them to audio narratives from the granddaughter, recounting her thoughts as she discovered her grandfather’s history for the first time.”

This virtual reality experience was made in association with New Delhi’s Museum of Material Memory.

The VR film questions the significance of alternative and forgotten histories, oral storytelling, and experience in the emerging medium of virtual reality, according to Wadhwa.

“It is six degrees of freedom experience created for HTC and Oculus stores and can be easily experienced downloading the ‘Sandbox of Memory’ app from these stores for free,” she said. “VR as a medium is a very powerful tool for experiencing the past traumatic events and learn painful lessons in an immersive way to experience healing.”

Wadhwa, a prolific new media artist and an immersive storyteller, uses new technologies (AR/VR/XR) for social impact. As a VR director, her artwork includes interactive storytelling, films, virtual and augmented reality and games.

Currently, Wadhwa is a Facebook Oculus Launchpad Fellow and in 2017, was a New Media Entrepreneurial Fellow at Catalyst, NYC Media Lab. Previously, she worked in film industries in the U.K., South Korea and India in film production, color-grading and digital film restoration.

Her work has been screened at film festivals, museums and conferences around the world, including at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Washington, D.C.-based American Film Institute.

Wadhwa, who is based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, holds an MFA in digital arts and new media from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master’s degree in English Literature from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, India.

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