All posts filed under: Crime

‘Marking’ the Muslim in Raees (2017)

Introduction Of the three recent films SRK has made, including Fan and Dear Zindagi, Raees has by the far most complicated ideological address. SRK plays a gangster who goes by the name of ‘Raees’, an exceedingly stylish avatar complete with retro sunglasses and the obligatory surma. SRK has never looked better or badder. Raees received average reviews on its release and was a global box office hit. Admittedly, Raees is an uneven work, like many of SRK’s recent films, although Fan is somewhat superior on reflection. In some respects, the avatar of the gangster is perhaps the one role in which SRK does look comfortable unlike the awkwardness of Dear Zindagi where he is seen playing a jovial therapist! Raees is a genre work that has the respective feel of a 1930s Warner Bros gangster flick; decidedly bristling with a semi-noir like pessimism. Characteristically, the social order in the traditional gangster film, held together by a punitive universe, prevailed suitably to please the censors, grudgingly though, reinstating a puritanical morality. Even the archetype of the crusading …

ARDH SATYA / HALF TRUTH (Dir. Govind Nihalani, 1983, India)

Govind Nihalani’s directorial debut in 1980 with the award winning Aakrosh (Cry of the Wounded) was inevitable. As an ace cinematographer, Nihalani collaborated closely with Shyam Benegal on many formative semi-realist critiques including Ankur, Nishant, Junoon and Bhumika. Benegal’s scepticism of social institutions and his sensitive representations of women, often victims of patriarchal oppression, would determine the equivalently leftist ideological machinations of Nihalani’s films as a director in the 1980s. Benegal tended to work with the same cast and crew for many of his early films including Shabana Azmi, Naseerudin Shah, Smita Patil, Om Puri and Amrish Puri, many of whom would be shared across with Nihalani in his own films. Ardh Satya was only Nihalani’s third feature as a director and probably the one that he is best remembered for. It is also another key film from the second wave of Parallel Cinema. In some respects the use of melodrama which Benegal and Nihalani both relied on as a means of narrative storytelling raises the continuing question of the relatively undecided status of films …

BOMBAY VELVET (Dir. Anurag Kashyap, 2015, India) – Bollywood Intermezzo

Ambition can be a cruel thing: blinding, deceptive and bellicose. It can mean adulation and reverence for an artist while at the same it can produce sharp reactionary criticism. Imaginably worst of all is the euphemism ‘ambitious failure’ expressly for a film director who may have spent years on a project only to see it evaporate into the ether of cinematic memoirs. Anurag Kashyap is a risk taker, someone who has been disillusioned with a parochial mainstream Indian cinema. To date his oeuvre sings from an alternate hymn sheet since no one film is alike. Kashyap’s continuing impact on mainstream Indian cinema is substantial, serving to contest the traditional paradigm of stars, genres and narrative storytelling that has so often plagued Indian cinema. Although there is a complicated debate regarding the definition of middle cinema, much of Kashyap’s films have straggled such a middle ground, taking up a space contentiously dubbed the ‘Hindie’ film. Far too many Indian directors play safe. Kashyap’s latest film Bombay Velvet never lacks ambition. It is his most mainstream film …

BLACKHAT (Dir. Michael Mann, 2015, US) – Moments, Impressions and Aesthetics

Defining moments in films can go unnoticed since the visual expressionism of most filmmakers is relatively provincial, acquiescing to broader commercial empathies. It is not right to reduce or distil the essence of Mann’s films to mere moments, as this would make the claim his films work fleetingly and intermittently. Moments can also be interpreted as marks of distinction attributed to an auteur as formidable as Mann whose films are some of the most authentic, aesthetically striking and thematically cogent genre pieces to have emerged from the mainstream of contemporary American cinema. There are two moments in question in Mann’s latest film Blackhat that are framed outside the periphery of genre, and which would constitute as authorial slight of hand. The first is when hacker Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is released from prison and pauses briefly on a runaway before boarding a jet. The second sees FBI Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) gunned down by zealous paramilitary bagman Kassar on the streets of HK (Mann is one of the few directors who finds an aesthetic …