Tag Archives: art movie

Subah/ Umbartha

“Subah” made as Umbartha in Marathi, by Jabbar Patel, starring Smita Patil, Girish Karnad among others and story by Vijay Tendulkar – what a magnificent movie on a socially relevant theme.

Savitri (Smita Patil) is a housewife in a traditional family with her husband Subhash (Girish Karnad) and a kid. Her mother in law is a stubborn old cranky woman. Her husband is supporting her when she receives a job offer as a Superintendent in a Girls Reformatory home far away from her house. She is a gold medalist in social welfare from TISS and so wants to do something for the women.

When she arrives at the reformatory home, she finds it like a hell home, with no discipline amongst the women, a rude & abrasive Chairman, an impotent managing committee and all kinds of fraud, theft, abuse taking place in the home. The woman are sent on nightly duties to the local MLA house. There is corruption in supplies, thefts taking place from the kitchen. Savitri sets about reforming one task after another against stiff opposition from all including the Chairman and the managing committee.

In between two girls are found in a lesbian pose, of which one girl has hot food poured on her lap deliberately. The women there are cases of abusive husband, & families which do not want to take them back. There are young mothers, raped mothers, women married to elder women, women married off as 4th wife etc. Its a terrible story of misery and sadness which the reformatory school is supposed to rectify and send them back to the society and somebody who can stand on their feet on their own.

Savitri tries all possible trick in the book to bring about changes in the system, including starting courses for the women. Two girls are lured to a glitzy world out there and run away only to be used and abused by men outside and brought back to the home. They do not want to stay there, saying what has the home to offer to us. Both these girls commit suicide.

That breaks the back of Savitri who decides to resign and get back to her family. But all things are not the same at the family front also. Shades of Bhumika in this movie where Smita Patil plays the role of a fiercely independent woman out to live the world entirely on her own terms.

Smita Patil is magnificent in the movie as usual displaying her entire range of emotions fully. She is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. She is undoubtedly one of the best movie stars to come out from India in the 70s and 80s. It was unfortunate that she died so early robbing us of one of the greatest movie stars ever seen on Indian cinema.

Story by Vijay Tendulkar is beautiful as usual and that Jabbar Patel made such a beautiful socially relevant movie is a tribute to his craft.

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Aakrosh

Revisited the 1980 Govind Nihalani arthouse movie Aakrosh starring Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Amrish Puri, Smita Patil (in a brief role). Written by Vijay Tendulkar the film revolves around the alleged murder of his wife by an adivasi wood cutter. Naseer takes up the case as his first lawyerly assignment as the court assigned defence counsel with Amrish Puri acting as the prosecution counsel. There are a series of mysterious incidents involving Naseer which leads him to believe that all that is related to the case. Nihalani has managed to put in an under current of Hitchcockian suspense throughout the movie. Classic case of upper caste domination over the adivasis and trampling of their rights to justice. It is a deadly movie by any standards. The intensity of Naseer and Om Puri is stunning in its magnificience. Superb screenplay and camera work. Govind Nihalani has gone on to direct such brilliant movies as Ardh Satya, Tamas, Party among others. 

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Bombay Talkie

A 1970 Merchant Ivory Productions, a tale of unrequited love. Jenifer Kendall is Lucia an American writer who has failed in all her marriages and has not had a successful past. But she has come to research for a novel in India. She is introduced to Hari (Zia Mohyeddin) a script writer and Vikram (Shashi Kapoor) a busy film star in his own right. Lucia has had a vacuum in all her life which is duly filled by Hari and Vikram. Vikram is already married to Mala (Aparna Sen in a stunningly beautiful role) but without children. Love triangle emerges between Lucia, Hari & Vikram. Lucia leaves all behind and goes to an ashram but is disturbed by what she sees there. Brilliant script, camera work, direction and over all some magnificient acting from Jenifer Kendal and Shashi Kapoor and understated elegance by Zia Mohyeddin. Some very bold scenes were enacted in the movie, which i guess would have been taboo in Indian films of 1970. There is one cameo song by Usha Iyer in her young days, stunning as usual.

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Chorus

A brilliant surrealist film by Mrinal Sen made in 1974 for which it won the National award for best feature film, besides two other awards. Made in black & white it works on few parallels. A factory advertises for 100 jobs for which it receives 30,000 applications. There is a huge snaking queue for just obtaining the application forms but when things go out of control the company decides not to give out any forms, which results in revolt among the applicants. From those applicants, Mrinal Sen has told stories of a few of them. One guy is a relative of village headman, whose family is upon hard times, and he has to sell his land cheap to the headman. The headman is cheating all villagers. Another story is that of a young girl who is looking for a job to support her mother who is working as a cook in another house. She is struggling to get jobs anywhere. The third story is that of a mill worker Banerjee (brilliantly played by Shekhar Chatterjee) who has lost his job to strikes, gets to drinking and is hounded by his co workers and the mill owners. There is one photo journalist who keeps taking photos and decides to create a sensation around the mystery number 30,000, the owners are terrified, call the police, who investigate few applicants, but find nothing. Mrinal creates a metaphor out of the 30,000 by showing a chorus arising from the proletariat against the business owners for lack of jobs and other atrocities being faced by them.

Brilliant movie to watch for those interested in quality cinema.

The image used is only for representational purpose and not with an intention to violating copyright.

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Manthan

A grim look at the reality of caste structure, local politics, highly pre-dominant patriarchial system in villages. The film takes an example of one village in which one idealist is trying to implement a co-operative system for production of milk but the village sarpanch and the local dealer are preventing it through means foul rather than fair. Anything and everything goes in a village including a cooked up sexual rape charge, local politicians currying favour with the higher levels at the state and national levels to influence decisions which favour them. This movie was made in 1976 but i am sure that even today, there are thousands of such villages in India, where the caste structure and feudal lordship predominate. The panchayat system of governance is more broken than successful. Such a sorry state of affairs. Brilliant acting by Naseeruddin Shah, Girish Karnad & Smita Patil. Quite an underrated touch of brilliance by Shyam Benegal.

The picture is used only for representational purposes and not with an intent to violating copyright.

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Kanchenjunga

A brilliant film made in 1962 by Satyajit Ray, that very subtly conveys lot of messages. The languid pace of this movie is absolutely brilliant. Its about a Bengali family on the last day of their holiday in Darjeeling hoping for a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga peak, but still not able to do so, because of cloud cover. In the meanwhile there is a lot of cloud in his family, his elder daughter is unhappy in her marriage and is seeing her old lover. Her husband knows it. Meanwhile the younger daughter is being primed for marriage with an arranged rendezvous with a young suitor. The younger daughter is not very sure of the institution of marriage especially arranged marriage because she is aware of her elder sister’s miseries. The old man is meanwhile in a world of his own, he has fond respects for the British and contempt for the nationalists and freedom fighters. He meets a young man who wants a job but the young guy is not very impressed with his pro Britishness and pro rich mentality. There is a lot of slow walk in the movie between the protagonists. The movie moves on several parallels with each slowly moving to a conclusion with the Kanchanjunga ranges showing itself majestically at the end. That Satyajit Ray can write such a script and make a movie in 1962 with subtle woman power at its theme is a tribute to the master. Its an absolutely masterful movie by the great man.

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Ek Ruka Hua Faisla

A 1985 movie by Basu Chatterjee based on a Hollywood remake of 12 Angry Men. The movie is inside a court room where 12 jurors have to decide whether a young man is guilty of killing his father or not. There are a couple of witnesses and the prosecution got away with their case because the defence was weak. The jury system was never prevalent in India, so this is kinda fictional retake. Out of 12 jury members, initially only one was in favour of the kid and angry repercussions follow from the remaining based more on their socio political mileau than anything else. The evidence is weak, motive is non existent, so it takes a brilliant script writing to swing the verdict the other way. Waves upon waves of brilliance in the script, The 12 men are as much condemned to make a decision in a hot stuffy room with no fans and air-condition and no food and only water for succour. All their inner demons is pealed off beautifully one by one. Lot of characters have done brilliant job prominent among them K.K. Raina, Pankaj Kapur, M.K. Raina and Anu Kapoor (unrecognisable), Deepak Qazir. Its nice to see the old timers in the movie. The entire movie is shot inside the room.

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Ghashiram Kotwal

A cult movie based on a Marathi play written by noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar. It is a historical drama based on the life of Nana Phadnavis in the 18th century. Ghashiram is a police constable to whom Nana depends and on whom power has gone to his head. There are a whole lot of political machinations, subterfuge going on in those days to which Ghashiram is an acquaintance. The movie is not in a story form, it is narration and musical drama put together. So one has to understand the movie in that form. Nana was a kind of a king maker in those days, much like a power broker, arbiter, fund raiser of the kind we say in the political circle even these days. There is not much in the acting department to speak of in the movie. The movie works on two parallels in the sense that what is depicted in the 18th century Maratha kingdom is seen today’s times. In that sense it is a timeless movie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghashiram_Kotwal

Wikipedia does not mention whether this movie has won any awards, but it did create a controversy at that time. It is a kind of cult movie that one has to watch in one’s lifetime, so better to do it during the lockdown period when one has ample time in hand.

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Do Bigha Zameen

A cult classic from Bimal Roy, this film is a story of a farmer trying his best to retain his small landholding in the presence of industrialisaton wave spreading India in the early 50s. Made in 1953, its a beautifully made movie where a farmer Shambo Mahto (Baljraj Sahni in an Oscar winning performance of his lifetime) wants to keep his small 2 acre land for which he is indebted to the local zamindar who virtually forces him to sell off his land for naught. Being idealistic Shambo travels to the city to earn some money (Rs.235 to be exact, which was a big sum those days) and in the bargain becomes a foot rickshaw puller which was in vogue in Calcutta of those days. Hardworking, dedicated, with lots of pride in himself, Shambo ultimately has to fall to the throes of the greed capitalist system. He has got a small family which is closely knit together and similarly idealistic, although the kid did stray occasionally this is probably one of the finest works of Bimal Roy. Beautiful camera work, cinematography and lilting music by Salil Choudhary but the movie marks Balraj Sahni as the finest actor of his generation,

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Jalsaghar

Jalsaghar directed by Satyajit Ray is a movie depicting the end of days of a decadent zamindar unwilling to change even when things around him are changing at a rapid pace. He is obsessed with his music room (Jalsaghar) where he invites people to play music and pays them handsomely. Music, drinks, horses, elephants are his life even while his family is withered away. Worth watching this drama epic once in your lifetime.

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