All posts filed under: Hindi Cinema

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 …

BADLAPUR (Sriram Raghavan, 2015, India) – Purgatory

Director Sriram Raghavan fourth directorial feature Badlapur opens with a brave bit of tableaux cinema. We can’t quite figure out where to look; the frame is wide open with the camera observing at a distance everyday street life, all in a single take. A bank robbery and the violent getaway disrupts the ordinariness of the moment creating an urban tension that is never fully resolved but intrinsic to the thriller form. Badlapur is less neo noir and more urban thriller. Although one could argue the two are indistinguishable in many ways, what categorises Badlapur as a thriller is the way melodrama is constantly rising to the surface. Having said that Badlapur does still have numerous noir traits but it seems to have more in common with South Korean revenge thrillers like Oldboy and A Bittersweet Life than American film noir. Raghavan really knows his cinema as testified by his previous work and is more adept at working in such intertexts with a playfulness that doesn’t jar or feel too obvious in its mode of address. …

JAYA GANGA (Vijay Singh, 1996, India/France)

Jaya Ganga is a tale articulated as if it was part of a wider mythical narrative while having roots in something metaphysically profound. The film draws on the mysticism of the Ganges, conjuring two female characters, extending from the same soul. In both instances, the two female apparitions could just as easily be fictitious imaginings of the writer Nishant who journeys down the Ganges in search of a confounding truth. This film’s strength resides very much in its tragic narrative trajectory, a wounding one, finding a sacred beauty in the most fatalistic of endings. Zehra, a gentle courtesan, appears as discordantly as the memory of Jaya and Nishant falls in love with her. Helping her to escape from the brothel in which she has been incarcerated recalls the conventions of courtesan films such as Pakeezah and Umrao Jaan. Unlike Nishant, a professional writer, Zehra has no place in society and thus in a way her outsider status simply adds to her mystique. Like Scottie in Vertigo who becomes fixated with the impossible and misogynist notion of …

CHAURANGA / FOUR COLOURS (Dir. Bikas Ranjan Mishra, 2014, India)

Synopsis: A fourteen year old dalit boy is growing up in an unnamed corner of India. His dream is to go to a town school like his elder brother and his reality is to look after the pig that his family owns. His only escape is to sit atop a Jamun tree and adore his beloved passing by on her scooter. His unspoken love is as true as his mother’s helplessness who cleans the cowsheds of the local strongman’s mansion, with whom she also has a secret liaison. When the boy’s elder brother comes on a vacation to the village, he soon finds out about his younger brother’s infatuation. The learned elder brother makes him realize the need to express his love and helps him write a love letter. (http://www.anticlockfilms.com/films/chauranga) I’ve been considering what to say about this film for a few weeks now but still cannot find the clearest way to express my thoughts. The film deals with feudal caste politics in an Indian village. What it is clearly trying to do is recall …