All posts filed under: the films of shyam benegal

MAMMO (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 1994, India)

When Khalid Mohamed, editor of Filmfare and journalist, wrote a piece on his great aunt in the Times of India he had no idea that Benegal would eventually convince Mohamed to write a screenplay based on the idea. This was made altogether unusual since Mohamed was not the greatest fan of Benegal’s cinema. Mammo (1994) would be the first of three films, all written by Khalid Mohamed, in which Benegal explored the fractured lives of three women from Muslim families. The story of Mammo revolves around the character of Mehmooda Begum (Farida Jalal) – a displaced Muslim woman who doesn’t quite know where she belongs anymore, a victim of partition and someone searching for an identity in an uncertain Bombay in which secularism has started to fade. Thrown out by her relatives in Pakistan, Mammo comes to Bombay, staying with her widowed sister Fayyazi (Surekha Sikri) and her 13yr old nephew Riyaz (Amit Phalke) from whose point of the view the story is narrated. There was no plan for a trilogy but along with Sardari …

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 …

MANTHAN / THE CHURNING (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 1976, India) – The White Revolution

Manthan was the third part in a trilogy of films dealing with rural oppression and it is a film which framed Benegal as a fiercely political voice in Indian cinema. Not only does the film have one of the finest ensemble casts you are likely to come across in parallel cinema but also brings together a typically brilliant crew made up of Kaifi Azmi (dialogue), Vanraj Bhatia (music) and Govind Nihalani (cinematography). Manthan is Benegal at the peak of his creative powers and it is a masterful work that focuses on the efforts of liberals Dr. Rao (Girish Karnad) and his men to help rural farmers establish a Milk cooperative. Based on the true story of the ‘white revolution’ – the world’s biggest Dairy development programme that took place in India during the 1970s and beyond, Benegal roots his story in a truth and approaches the political contestation of the village through a neo realist prism that serves to dignify the poor farmers/peasants as new egalitarian citizens. At first, the villagers are suspicious of the …