All posts filed under: New Indian Cinema

TIKLI AND LAXMI BOMB (Dir. Aditya Kripalani, 2017, India) – Sex and the City

The hectic roadside at night is a connective urban tributary in Tikli and Laxmi Bomb, a brazen, atypical and bleak observation of sex workers in Mumbai. Given the rise of female centred narrative cinema and the strong female protagonist, a cycle of films including Lipstick under my Burkha, Pink, Piku, Anarkali of Aarah, NH-10, Margarita with a Straw and Tumhari Sulu point to a shifting acknowledgment of the growing power of the female audience at the Indian box office. Many of these films take up a centre ground, mixing idioms from popular Hindi cinema with indie aesthetics. Although Tikli and Laxmi Bomb is a stylised work, based on director Aditya Kripalani’s third novel, the richness of the inner lives of the characters including the tangential bit players maps a sprawling tale of despair that recalls Nair’s powerful Salaam Bombay. Tikli and Laxmi Bomb has already attracted critical acclaim and is likely to do well on the festival circuit but the urgent themes it deals with suggests this is a film that deserves a wider international audience, not …

MUKKABAAZ / THE BRAWLER (Dir. Anurag Kashyap, 2017, India) – Fist of Fury [spoilers ahead]

Mukkabaaz ends with very little of the catharsis you would expect from a boxing biopic. But Kashyap’s latest venture uses the sports film trappings as a way of navigating the politics of caste against the backdrop of an unconventional Hindi romance. This one zips along, partaking a breathless, infectious energy and enjoys circumventing audience expectations so to let those authorial Kashyap flourishes gather a hedonistic momentum. While mainstream Hindi cinema continues to dodge the question of caste, having rendered caste invisible in the sentimental NRI neoliberal narratives, Parallel Cinema attempted to make the question of caste a central edict of the communicative political cinema of Benegal. Some time or another many of the great Indian filmmakers have all dealt with caste. Even Ray realised the urgency of this task with Sadgati, his grimmest film. And many of the best films about caste have come from the South; see Chomana Dudi. While alternative, independent cinema has thrived, caste led narratives have been intermittent. Yet the critical success of films like Sairat, Chauranga and Masaan point to …

MACHINES (Dir. Rahul Jain, 2016, India/Germany/Finland)

The worker as machine is not a new phenomenon. It goes as far back as the industrial revolution. But I have to admit though. I thought this documentary was going to be about the singularity of the physical, industrial and technological symbolism of machines. It still is in some respects. But Rahul Jain trains his eye on translating the processes of manufacture, waste and labour into a hypnotically poetic synthesis of the toils and uncertain rituals of economic liberalisation. And what rises to the surface through a series of revelatory interviews with the factory workers in particular is a voice that speaks not of Marxist revolution but of the want for better (and safer) working conditions, a reasonable work shift, and acknowledgement from the boss that they exist. The interviews with the workers are interspersed with observational footage in the labyrinthine textile factory, relaying a socio-political discourse aligned to a wider social conscience. But this sort of comes undone towards the end. In an instant, the quizzical workers reduce the filmic apparatus to an obsolete …

REVELATIONS (Dir. Vijay Jayapal, 2016, India)

Revelations is about the inadequacies and vulnerabilities of relationships. Writer and director Vijay Jayapal crafts four memorable characters and appreciatively gives them time to grow. In doing so the director also draws on common archetypes – the housewife, the husband, a mysterious stranger, the youthful novice – connecting with a recognisable cultural code but inverting our expectations in trying to figure out their psychological flaws, taking such convincingly told urban stories into unpredictably rewarding places. A major theme of a city based film of this type, shot on location in Kolkata, is the ghostly lives of the characters (in fact, the central character of Shobha, a young Tamil woman, played by Lakshmi Priyaa, exudes a lasting spectral impression that recalls Shahani’s 1972 Maya Darparn) that seem at once invisible and concrete in the migratory urban sprawl. Credit to Jayapal for embracing the aural landscape of Kolkata, offering an incessant urban ambience (impressive sound design) to the unhurried narrative. Much of the film capitalises on the dead space that traverses the desperate lives of the four …