All posts filed under: 1970s

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 …

ARGO (Dir. Ben Affleck, 2012, US) – Cowboys and Indians

Ben Affleck as CIA agent Tony Mendez. Argo opens with a glib lesson in shoddy Hollywood political objectivity, attempting to tell us that the geopolitical situation of Iran during the American Embassy hostage siege had its demonic seeds in the history of American interventionism. It is one of the few moments in the entire film that we witness a fleeting, if not grudging, attempt at political introspection. Ben Affleck’s latest directorial venture removes him from the geographical comforts of Boston but does political necessarily indicate a growing up in Hollywood cinema? It certainly has been the case with previous liberally inclined film stars turned directors such as Robert Redford and George Clooney. This growing up from traditional Hollywood film genres to more obscure, difficult and problematic material seems to mark some kind of a painfully superficial transition from an isolationist view of American life to broader transnational politics. Yet the sanitised liberal intentions including the serious subject matter, political context, 1970s period, extended conversation sequences and mixing of visual styles merely propagates a view that …

KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Dir. Andrew Dominik, 2012, US) – ‘America’s not a country, it’s a business…’

Brad Pitt as enforcer/hit-man ‘Jackie Cogan’ ‘And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope…’          – President Obama’s acceptance speech, 2008 Killing Them Softly revels in the cynicism of its central character of Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a hit man who stalks the noir lit streets of an urban American society suffering from a monstrous moral and economic decadence. It’s not a fantastical decadence but one rooted in a stark contemporary reality in which the terms recession and capitalism have led to a social crisis of confidence. The absence of morality is nothing new to the crime genre but here it seems to be absolute in the way Jackie views his role of the hit man nothing more than a professional service. With Jackie, …

ALAAP (Dir. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1977, India)

Alaap was released in 1977 when Amitabh Bachchan’s stardom was at its peak. It has often been said that the films he made with Hrishikesh Mukherjee saw a more restrained side to Amitabh. In the film Alok (Amitabh Bachchan) wants to become a classically trained singer but Prasad (Om Prakash) his orthodox father regards the musical profession as derisory and instructs Alok to follow his lead and become a lawyer. Alok rebels and a bitter conflict emerges between father and son that results in a tragic conclusion. Sons defying their fathers tapped into a number of prevalent social issues; the generation gap, youth rebellion and iconoclasm. The Salim-Javed scripted Shakti (1982) lifts a number of ideas from Alaap and reworks them with a bigger cast. Director Hrishikesh Mukherjee starts deceptively as the focus is clearly on music in the opening but as Prasad begins to sabotage his son’s dreams, the musical aspects become perfunctory while conventions of the social melodrama take over much of the narrative trajectory. There a number of elements of the film …