PARINDA (Dir. Vidhu Vinod Chopra, 1989, India)


At times watching Parinda is like seeing the handiwork of a geographer dissecting the topography of an urban landscape, flattening and amplifying the fissures of a Bombay milieu that had typically never been printed on celluloid in quite the way director Vidhu Vinod Chopra and his cinematographer Binod Pradhan had in mind when they were shooting this paradigm of late Parallel Cinema. The tale of two brothers, who are both infected by crime and the underworld, harks back to the Warner Bros gangster melodramas, imbuing the film with a sense of tragedy, fatalism and doom that also recalls noir affectations. Parinda is a film about aesthetic and style though, opting for an expressionist mode in which the favoured visual trope becomes the overhead shot, flattening the space so we become sutured into the melodrama as floating voyeurs. It is a work that came at the end of Parallel Cinema, signalling the end to the early, and at times, experimental phase of Chopra’s career as a filmmaker, one that was arguably more daring than the overly predictable, mainstream films he would go on to make in the 1990s. Parinda’s sharpness as a gangster noir underworld hybrid comes from Chopra’s precisely staged framing and compositional work in which the underworld of Bombay is posited as a hopeless, mortifying open prison. The contemporary sub-genre of Mumbai Noir, notably Satya, was greatly influenced by the psychological nihilism of Parinda. One of the strangest aspects is the soundtrack, which deploys classical music to uneven effects, not without recognising the boldness with which Chopra tries to implement this stylish flourish. Pradhan’s miraculous images are matched by Ren Saluja’s audacious editing choices, making Parinda an intensely rich work that continually surprises with its grand formal design.

MONSOON SHOOTOUT (Dir. Amit Kumar, 2013, India) – An Occurrence in Mumbai at Night


Director Amit Kumar says Monsoon Shootout was inspired by An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, an influential short story by writer Ambrose Pierce. The narrative hook is relatively high concept: a rookie Mumbai police inspector’s shooting encounter with a vicious criminal relives the impact of the moment in three radically different ways. A more clearer cinematic influence is Kieslowski’s 1981 film Blind Chance. This makes for an innovative narrative neo noir genre piece also seizing the chance to explore the inner lives of those who populate this atmospheric Mumbai underworld. Produced by Anurag Kashyap and Asif Kapadia, Kumar’s well paced directorial debut draws on a history of classic Indian police films such as Ardh Satya to flesh out what is a conventional story about the trials and tribulations of a rookie cop fighting for acceptance and integrity. What makes the film brilliantly enjoyable is Kumar’s considered handling of a narrative that defies expectations, disrupting the usual conventions associated with this genre. The sequences that unfold at night are particularly memorable, with the crimson red lighting and endless monsoon rains, producing a resolutely sleazy tone. Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a scene stealing turn as a low life criminal lackey proves yet again that supporting roles often allow the actor to take more risks than the main lead. A film like Monsoon Shootout certainly proves that there is still a lot of mileage left in the Mumbai noir genre, drawing inspiration from the traditions of film noir to give us an ending in which themes of fatalism and doom are played out in tragic circumstances.