All posts filed under: New Indian Cinema

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 …

PINK (Dir. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, 2016, India) – Gestural Cinema

Stylistically and structurally Pink is a fairly parochial work. Where it resonates is in the ideological mode of address, polemicizing contemporaneous gender politics in which the norms of gender behaviour are regulated by a regressive culture of misogyny, corruption and privilege. Amitabh Bachchan has often functioned as a mediating figure and certainly in this respect he amplifies the sexual harassment suffered by three lower middle class Indian women, reminding us that when Amitabh spoke in the 1970s his miraculous baritone voice projected a ferocious anger that resonated with audiences. It still does. There is a terrifying and prescient rage in this film, like a punch in the face, directed towards the lack of dignity, respect and silencing of women in a society that has normalized sexual harassment, rape and violence, having completely forsaken the significance of body politics to the identity of women. The later half of Pink unfolds in a courtroom, absorbing conventional elements of the courtroom drama. But the significance of allowing gender politics to be contested within the public space of the …

MOH MAYA MONEY / In Greed We Trust (Dir. Munish Bhardwaj, India, 2016) – Delhi Noir

In the traditional film noir universe the destruction of the male protagonist is manifested in a downward spiral of paranoia, guilt and death. And it becomes a virtual impossibility to attain redemption. No matter what one does to rectify an earlier regret usually leads to certain calamity from which there is no return. Thematically, a noir continually invests in the psychology of power and desire, returning to a morality, which is often framed, in capitalistic terms. Marriage, betrayal, adultery, masculinity, and all of the above steadily rise to the surface in director Munish Bhardwaj’s gripping slice of Delhi noir, in which Aman (Ranvir Shorey), a contemptibly low life real estate broker, is sucked wholly into a whirlpool of greed. What makes this slice of urban noir somewhat idiosyncratic is the locale of an affluent Delhi middle class desperate to get ahead in a morally dubious neoliberal capitalist India. Everyone is flawed and so they should be, after all this is a noir. Aman’s world, a corruptible milieu of back end real estate dealings, is made altogether …