All posts filed under: Benegal

Canonizing Indian Parallel Cinema – Part 3: The Transitional Years (1978 – 1979)

This Third phase marked the transitioning of Parallel Cinema into perhaps the high point of creativity. During the Emergency, the FFC criteria was re-written in 1976, whereby avant-garde pursuits were discouraged and ‘Indianness’ promoted. Perhaps it would be absurd to say this was the beginning of the end but risk, adventure and experimentation would be curtailed. Some of this about turn was at the behest of Satyajit Ray and the apparent failure of films in the developmental phase to turn a profit, which in fact was not the case at all. The real failure had been with the FFC to invest in a viable distribution and exhibition network to fully support the access of Parallel Cinema for a specialist film audience. By the time we reach the end of the 1970s, popular Hindi cinema was on the ascendancy again with the multi starrer. Although many of the newly established filmmakers of the early years of Parallel Cinema continued to make films, the time frame of 1978 to 1979, hardly two years, is the shortest of …

YATRA – (Dir. Goutam Ghose, 2006, India)

                Yatra really took me by surprise. Made in 2006 but receiving a quick release in 2007, Bengali director Goutam Ghose has made one of the most layered, intricate and reflexive of Indian films. It is a film full of wonderful mysteries and really captivated my imagination unlike any other Indian film in a while. Like Benegal’s masterly Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda/Seventh Horse of the Sun (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 1992, India) which uses the narrative conceit of the unreliable narrator to test the limits of filmic subjectivity, Ghose complicates matters by blurring the line between fact and fiction. Additionally, we are never quite sure who exactly is in charge of the narrative – is it the celebrated yet cynical novelist who appears to be at the end of his career or is this a story being singularly re-interpreted by the mind of the scriptwriter/director encountered on the train. For me Ghose has suddenly risen to the top in terms of contemporary Indian auteurs and I can’t believe I …

BOSE: THE FORGOTTEN HERO (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 2005, India) – ‘Chalo Delhi!…’

Revolutionary, leader, politician, humanist, socialist, Marxist, communist; Subhas Chandra Bose was a remarkable figure in the struggle for India’s independence. Director Shyam Benegal’s exceptionally researched historical biopic has an undeniably epic sweep complemented by a towering central performance from the wonderfully talented Marathi actor Sachin Khedekar – it is a faultless and charismatic turn by Khedekar exuding a defiance constantly expressed through his impassioned voice. Had Benegal not been at the helms of this project it is more than likely casting would have been a point of conflict for any other director up against the cynical economics of the box office. In a way, casting is what ultimately compromises the sincerity of recent historical films including Jodha-Akbar and Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey – both had the potential to be great films but the emotional and cinematic baggage brought by mainstream stars (who are weak actors) jeopardises audience engagement. If you are going to make a historical film that should be both didactic and entertaining then cast it properly even if this means turning to …

Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda / Seventh Horse of the Sun (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 1992, India) – The Unreliable Narrator

The first of Benegal’s films to receive state funding (NFDC), Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda’s resonance comes from a sophisticated use of narrative subjectivity. Comparable to Kurosawa’s Rashomon in its gradual and shifting points of view, this is a moving examination of the storytelling process and one of the rare occasions that Benegal has explored cinema as a construct. The narrator, Manek (Rajit Kapur), is not only unreliable but his perception of the truth concerning the three beguiling female centred stories he relays to his friends is questioned throughout, culminating in a genuinely cryptic ending that seems to unravel the entire film making process. Though Rashomon may serve as a direct inspiration, the cinema of Kiarostami seems closer if one was to contextualise Benegal’s masterpiece as it poses fundamental questions that concerns film making and cinema – whose truth is being represented, how is it constructed and how should we respond as a spectator? This is what academic Sangetta Datta has to say about the film in her accomplished appreciation: ‘The title is also a clue …