All posts filed under: Political Cinema

GALIGE (Dir. M. S. Sathyu, 1995, India)

I recently caught Galige (1995) lurking in the library of Amazon’s Indian film channel Heera. Many of the key titles first made available by the NFDC on DVD through the Cinemas of India label can be found in the library. Most of the films have subtitles and claim to have been restored, which judging by some of the films I have seen, either the original negative must be in a sorry state or the term restoration has been somewhat inflated. Galige, directed by M. S. Sathyu, released in 1995, returns to the topic of secularism (Garam Hawa, 1973) but this time through the perspective of two youth; an orphaned girl who does not believe in religion or caste and a young Sikh boy who is on the run after committing an act of terrorism in the name of religion. Since they have both seen the ways in which religion separates rather than unites brings them closer together, creating a striking and refreshing socialist worldview. It might be reasonable to include Galige as part of a …

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 …

CHOMANA DUDI / CHOMA’S DRUM (1975, India, B. V. Karanth)

In Chomana Dudi the sound of the drumbeat never really stops. It is a sound at first made by Choma (Vasudeva Rao in a remarkable performance), the aging bonded labourer and untouchable, used to express the rage he feels about his oppression. But later it appears more frequently, punctuating the narrative, an incessant reminder of feudalism and casestism as perpetual to history. The sound of the drumbeat is one of political impotency; a pathetic cry of futile social conditions from which Choma and his family are unable to escape, no matter what they do. Chomana Dudi is based on a classic of Kannada literature, Choma’s Drum, written by acclaimed novelist K. S. Karanth. Choma’s dream of buying his own land, having toiled his entire life for a despotic, exploitative landlord, is a fatalistic death kneel, conjured from the debauched universe of noir. Directed by B. V. Karanth (interestingly director Girish Kasaravalli is credited as assistant director) and released in 1975, Chomana Dudi, was part of a Parallel Cinema that transpired in Karnataka in the 1970s, a …

‘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 …