All posts filed under: Saeed Mirza

Canonizing Indian Parallel Cinema – Part 3: The Transitional Years (1978 – 1979)

This Third phase marked the transitioning of Parallel Cinema into perhaps the high point of creativity. During the Emergency, the FFC criteria was re-written in 1976, whereby avant-garde pursuits were discouraged and ‘Indianness’ promoted. Perhaps it would be absurd to say this was the beginning of the end but risk, adventure and experimentation would be curtailed. Some of this about turn was at the behest of Satyajit Ray and the apparent failure of films in the developmental phase to turn a profit, which in fact was not the case at all. The real failure had been with the FFC to invest in a viable distribution and exhibition network to fully support the access of Parallel Cinema for a specialist film audience. By the time we reach the end of the 1970s, popular Hindi cinema was on the ascendancy again with the multi starrer. Although many of the newly established filmmakers of the early years of Parallel Cinema continued to make films, the time frame of 1978 to 1979, hardly two years, is the shortest of …

SALIM LANGDE PE MAT RO / Don’t Cry for Salim the Lame (Dir. Saeed Akhtar Mirza, 1989, India)

‘Kutte Ki Maut…’ (A Dog’s Death) Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro is one of Mirza’s most respective films, exploring his own identity as an Indian Muslim. In terms of research, Mirza spent time in the deprived milieu of Bombay, interviewing many hoodlums and rogues, all of which explicate a marked authenticity in the final film. This is a film about the street, and is dedicated to influential street theatre activist and Marxist-communist Safdar Hashmi, murdered in Jan 1989 by Congress thugs. Whereas both Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro and Naseem (1995) can certainly be inferred as a rejoinder to the upsurge of Hindu fundamentalism, consolidating tragically in the mid 1990s with the Babri Masjid demolition, the pseudo documentary style makes the representation of the Muslim community altogether exceptional in contrast to the largely deleterious representations perpetuated by mainstream Hindi cinema. But this is a film not solely about the Indian Muslim experience; Mirza uses this doctrinally sensitive issue to explicate a deeper political fragmentation, the perpetual displacement of an Indian underclass. It is significant to …

GHASHIRAM KOTWAL (Dir. K. Hariharan, Mani Kaul, Kamal Swaroop, Saeed Mirza, 1976, India) – Experiments in Time & Space

Watching Ghashiram Kotwal is equivalent to a punch in the face, cinematically speaking of course, since here is a film, a belligerent work in terms of parallel cinema, antithetical to Indian Cinema. It was a film all but forgotten, salvaged from the Berlin film archive, and restored. Yet again preservation intervened in the historiography of Indian Cinema, revising the past. Ghashiram Kotwal seems like a seminal work now, a crossroads in terms of ideological and aesthetic experimentation, arriving at the peak of the parallel cinema art film movement in 1976. Although the FFC had nothing to do with Ghashiram Kotwal in terms of funding, a natural project to support really, they did help to put in place the necessary conditions for such an experimental film to be realized by a group of emboldened, agit-prop filmmakers coming out of the film institute in Pune. In many ways, Ghashiram Kotwal may not have been possible without Bhuvan Shome or more significantly Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti. The critical success of both films, part of the New Cinema Movement …