All posts filed under: Expressionism

MANOOS/ADMI aka Life is for the Living (Dir. V. Shantaram, 1939, India)

Manoos (1939) opens with a deftly staged pre-Bressonian like shot of the camera tracking a pair of naked feet as it enters a brothel/gambling den, surveying the men illicitly playing cards on the floor. But this is a shot that pre-dates Bresson and also the opening shot to Hitchock’s Strangers on a Train, and points to the filaments of innovation that characterised classical studio filmmaking in India during the 1930s and beyond. Directed by Shantaram, one of the early pioneers of Indian cinema, Manoos is a striking example of the Hindi social melodrama and was made by the technically accomplished Prahbat Film Company. The film was shot largely on sets in a studio and Rupali Shukla (2014) writes that Shantaram visited red light districts in Mumbai to help with authentically recreating the milieu, which is starkly claustrophobic and Kammerspiel in its look. At the core of this melodrama is a love story between Ganpat (Shahu Modak), a straight-laced police officer, and Maina (Shanta Hublikar), a prostitute. The opening police raid on the brothel is cloaked …

YAADEIN / MEMORIES (Dir. Sunil Dutt, 1964, India)

Set entirely in the confines of a house and featuring only one actor playing out a variety of roles, Yaadein is somewhat of a genuine oddity. Yaadein was the only film actor Sunil Dutt directed. The film adheres to a vivid expressionist style with numerous canted angles and low angle shots that literally imprison Anil’s (Sunil Dutt) figure within the tightly composed frame. Dispensing with plot, the film is an extended monologue delivered by Dutt as he wanders through the house reflecting on the breakdown of his marriage. Sunil Dutt was a terrific actor and his presence in virtually every scene was an exhausting and risky strategy to take but in many ways this is what makes Yaadein so distinct. It is evident that Sunil Dutt was openly interested in playing with his star image and Yaadein’s experimental vein pointed to a potentially interesting directorial career, which unfortunately never came to fruition. Yaadein is also problematic to categorise. While the film features a major actor/star in the lead role, the absence of plot and additional …

Navketan Films: Chetan, Vijay and Dev Anand

NEECHA NAGAR / Lowly City (Dir. Chetan Anand, 1946, India)TAXI DRIVER (Dir. Chetan Anand, 1954, India) Dev Anand in one of his many publicity poses – one of the overlooked stars of 50s Hindi cinema. Trapped amongst the ideological sincerities of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt was Dev Anand – the suave, sardonic and gentlest of screen heroes who came closest to perfecting the charismatic yet unpredictable persona of Hollywood noir film stars like John Garfield. It was in 1949 that the Anand brothers got together, establishing Navketan Films, an independent production company. Between the creatively enriching period beginning in 1952 with Afsar and reaching its artistic zenith in 1965 with Guide, Navketan helped ttransform Dev Anand into one of the most popular Indian film stars of the 1950s whilst offering a slew of great films which attempted to and largely succeeded on occasions to bridge the sacred gap between art and commerce. The Anand brothers were comprised of Chetan, Dev and Vijay. Chetan Anand, the eldest, was also the most political and …

AMAR (Dir. Mehboob Khan, India, 1954) – Expressionist Idiosyncrasies

                  Film maker Mehboob Khan reached his artistic zenith with Mother India in 1957 whilst his body of work in the 1940s produced such classics as Aurat (Woman, 1940), Roti (The Bread, 1942), Humayun (1945), Anmol Ghadi (1946) and Andaz (1949). The considerable achievements of Mother India and its iconic cultural position in film history obscures many of the more adventurous and unconventional films Mehboob made during his two decade long domination of Hindi popular cinema. Unfortunately when compared to his peers like Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt, much of Mehboob’s work is still sadly unavailable. Whilst much of it probably does exist somewhere on VHS, the DVD market has been slow to respond to the cinephile demands to make accessible more of the films that have become lost in the melee of populist works from the studio era. Legend has it that Mehboob ran away to join the film industry, working his way through the ranks until he eventually broke through in 1936 as a director …