Author: Omar Ahmed

GALIGE (Dir. M. S. Sathyu, 1995, India)

I recently caught Galige (1995) lurking in the library of Amazon’s Indian film channel Heera. Many of the key titles first made available by the NFDC on DVD through the Cinemas of India label can be found in the library. Most of the films have subtitles and claim to have been restored, which judging by some of the films I have seen, either the original negative must be in a sorry state or the term restoration has been somewhat inflated. Galige, directed by M. S. Sathyu, released in 1995, returns to the topic of secularism (Garam Hawa, 1973) but this time through the perspective of two youth; an orphaned girl who does not believe in religion or caste and a young Sikh boy who is on the run after committing an act of terrorism in the name of religion. Since they have both seen the ways in which religion separates rather than unites brings them closer together, creating a striking and refreshing socialist worldview. It might be reasonable to include Galige as part of a …

Canonizing Indian Parallel Cinema – Part 2: The Emergency (1975 – 1977)

This is part two in a series of five posts on canonizing Indian Parallel Cinema. Part one was published in January 2017. The Emergency, an extended period of state repression and censorship, is one of the darkest times in India’s recent history. The foundational years of Parallel Cinema, where some thought it was possible to create an alternate non-commercial cinema, ended chaotically in 1975 when Indira Gandhi, foreseeing her dwindling grip on power, replaced information and broadcasting minister Inder Kumar Gujral overnight with V. C. Shukla. This was because Doordarshan had not given live coverage to an Indira Gandhi rally (Hashmi, 2013). Shukla’s dictatorial reign as minister of information and broadcasting was marked by notoriety, bullying film stars and coercing directors in a period of intense repression. (See Decline and Fall of Indira Gandhi, D.R. Manekar, 2014). No films were financed by the FFC in this period, indicative of the severity of state repression, albeit new and important voices still emerged including John Abraham and Anand Patwardhan. When ‘In September 1975 V.C. Shukla informed Karanjia that …

MACHINES (Dir. Rahul Jain, 2016, India/Germany/Finland)

The worker as machine is not a new phenomenon. It goes as far back as the industrial revolution. But I have to admit though. I thought this documentary was going to be about the singularity of the physical, industrial and technological symbolism of machines. It still is in some respects. But Rahul Jain trains his eye on translating the processes of manufacture, waste and labour into a hypnotically poetic synthesis of the toils and uncertain rituals of economic liberalisation. And what rises to the surface through a series of revelatory interviews with the factory workers in particular is a voice that speaks not of Marxist revolution but of the want for better (and safer) working conditions, a reasonable work shift, and acknowledgement from the boss that they exist. The interviews with the workers are interspersed with observational footage in the labyrinthine textile factory, relaying a socio-political discourse aligned to a wider social conscience. But this sort of comes undone towards the end. In an instant, the quizzical workers reduce the filmic apparatus to an obsolete …

CHOMANA DUDI / CHOMA’S DRUM (1975, India, B. V. Karanth)

In Chomana Dudi the sound of the drumbeat never really stops. It is a sound at first made by Choma (Vasudeva Rao in a remarkable performance), the aging bonded labourer and untouchable, used to express the rage he feels about his oppression. But later it appears more frequently, punctuating the narrative, an incessant reminder of feudalism and casestism as perpetual to history. The sound of the drumbeat is one of political impotency; a pathetic cry of futile social conditions from which Choma and his family are unable to escape, no matter what they do. Chomana Dudi is based on a classic of Kannada literature, Choma’s Drum, written by acclaimed novelist K. S. Karanth. Choma’s dream of buying his own land, having toiled his entire life for a despotic, exploitative landlord, is a fatalistic death kneel, conjured from the debauched universe of noir. Directed by B. V. Karanth (interestingly director Girish Kasaravalli is credited as assistant director) and released in 1975, Chomana Dudi, was part of a Parallel Cinema that transpired in Karnataka in the 1970s, a …