All posts filed under: Genre

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 …

‘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 …

THE KEEP (Dir. Michael Mann, 1983, US) – Atmospheric Exegesis

Given Mann’s consolidation as perhaps American cinema’s greatest film auteur does a film like The Keep hold any bearing on his reputation today? What can the film tell us about Mann that we don’t already know? The Keep is the film that Mann has rarely acknowledged. It had a troubled production history and Mann’s original 3 hour plus rough-cut was eventually submitted as a 2-hour version. As a result of negative test screenings, Paramount took to cutting the film down to 96 minutes, all without Mann’s consent. One can certainly reason why Mann has sort of disowned the film. Apparent from the studio cut is the incoherence of the narrative structure and although I would argue logic is not a necessity for a narrative to function and communicate, here one can readily notice sequences have been excised purely for a cruel commercial necessity. This is no way makes the film’s narrative difficult to follow but one wonders at the logic of Mann’s greater narrative design. Nonetheless, The Keep is still an inexplicably mesmeric work as …

THE MAGNIFICENT 7 (Dir. Antoine Fuqua, 2016, US)

What if you got the opportunity to rework a contestable classic but had nothing to say? This is pretty much what The Magnificent 7 feels like. One can probably imagine the creative heads that cooked up this idea stemmed from the certified stone cold image of Denzel Washington as a mysterious gunslinger on a horse cloaked in black; an irresistible cinematic construct indeed. But that’s where this idea should have ended. Fuqua’s re-imagining is a lamentably inert, mechanical Western that refuses to take a breath. Washington’s intro is ace, conjuring a laconic rhythm that Fuqua should have tried to mirror in the rest of the film. Asking that a director slow it down seems like a prosaic request to make these days but even if this was the case then that typically means having something good enough to explicate to fill those silences. Consequently, characters cultivate insubstantial psychological depth, relying on the debatable vestiges of parody. Fuqua may not be the most rousing of filmmakers yet Training Day spasmodically articulated a promise to grow. However, it …