Monday, 29 August 2016

Mandi - Reminiscing old school Hindi cinema

When I was asked to pen down a research paper for my final year project, Shyam Benegal’s much acclaimed movie, Mandi instantly came to my mind sans any clouds of hesitation or doubt. The movie, somehow, holds a very special place in my heart. The piece that is going to follow is something that I wrote almost a year back. Republishing it for the blog has been at the back of my mind ever since. The article will largely attempt at analysing the characters, dialogues and narrative of the film.
A poster of the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet

With a runtime of 162 minutes, Mandi (Marketplace) covers the issues of Indian hypocrisy, female oppression, class oppression, political manipulation, human trafficking, and corruption with rare humour, hard to find in movies addressing heavy issues. Benegal’s style of filmmaking is very intelligent and compelling as is evident from his movies such as Bhumika, Nishant, Ankur, Antardwand, etc. Every character, whether small or big, is crucially important to the plot of the story. One cannot do away with any character as each character adds another layer of meaning to the story, an important feature of parallel cinema. It is very refreshing to view film where no one particular dialogue, sequence or character is without layers. It’s a film heavily loaded with multiple layers of indications, both superficial layer and deeper layer. This makes it very interesting to study a film like Mandi.
The storyline
Mandi (Market Place) is a1983 Hindi movie boasting of an ensemble cast of almost 15 actors who later went on to make national and international mark for themselves. Shabana Azmi(Rukmini Bai), Naseeruddin Shah(Tungroos), Smita Patil(Zeenat), Ratna Pathak(Baby), Om Puri(Ramgopal), Soni Razdan(Nadra), Saed Jaffery(Mr. Agarwal), Kulbhushan Kharbanda(Mr. Gupta), Gita Siddharth(Shanti Devi), Amrish Puri(Baba Khadag Shah), Neena Gupta(Basanti), and introduced Ila Arun and Harsh Patel(Policeman). Based on the Urdu short story Aanandi by writer Ghulam Abbas, the film revolves around Rukmini and the brothel she runs in the heart of a city, an area, Mr. Gupta and Mr. Agarwal wish to convert into a mall. The film is a satirical comedy on politics and prostitution with the underlying themes of human trafficking, Indian hypocrisy, manipulation, lobbying, etc. 
Following is a short clip from the movie.  

The film won the 1984 National Film Award for Best Art Direction. It created waves around the world with it being selected at Indian Panorama at Filmostav, Bombay 1984, and it also got invited to the Los Angeles Exposition (FILMEX), the Hong Kong International Film Festival 1984, and London Film Festival 1983.
About Shyam Benegal
Shyam Benegal. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Shyam Benegal is a noted film director whose work is central to and instrumental in giving shape to alternative cinema/ new cinema/ Indian new wave/ parallel cinema/ realist cinema. The synonyms are endless as described by endless no. of film critics. Satyajit Ray is considered to be the father of this school of filmmaking which dates back to 1950s. Later, film makers like Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul, Girish Karnad, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Ketan Mehta, Girish Kasaravalli and Shyam Benegal carried on the legacy. These filmmakers aimed for a social change and strong commentary through the use of films. The term ‘parallel’ cinema suggests a genre which runs alongside (not literally) the mainstream cinema which is your commercial cinema. Benegal has always been known to make films centred on strong female characters, be it Rukmini and Zeenat in Mandi or Urvashi in Bhumika or Zubeidaa from Zubeidaa. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Three shots that shook the entire nation - Rustom

Three shots. Just three shots. That was all that was needed to jostle the nation one fine morning of 1959. The Blitz broke the news to the world with the above headline and continued to carry the news for another three years. Such was the uniqueness of the events; such was the charm it carried that the whole nation keenly followed what was to unfold.The story is from a fairly young and independent India all of 12 years old, the times when Mumbai was still called Bombay and the practice of a bench of jury giving out judgements was still underway, unlike today, where a single judge pronounces the fate of a case. 

The front page of the Blitz newsmagazine that broke the news. Photo Courtesy: Internet

A young Parsi had shot dead another man for having to refuse to marry his wife after having a brief affair with her. The man in question was KM Nanavati, an honest, nation-loving naval officer. The case was one of its kinds, for more reasons than one. The first thing he did after shooting his wife’s lover was to surrender. Surprisingly, the man managed to attract huge crowd support. It is said that the print media played a pivotal role in painting Nanavati as the hero and maligning the lover’s image. This led to the Jury members being influenced (allegedly) by public opinion shaped by the print media.

The front pages of Blitz, the newsmagazine which closely
followed the case for 3 years. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The crux of the arguments thrown by the lawyers was to figure out whether Nanavati shot the lover in the ‘heat of the moment’ or it was a pre-planned, well-thought through murder that was staged. Nanavati was found not guilty by the Bombay sessions court. The case took its course and was reopened in the Bombay High Court and then Supreme Court in the coming three years. The case was a landmark in bringing about important changes in the Indian Judicial system.

A poster of the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Akshay Kumar-starrer Rustom, that hit the theatres last weekend, is based on this infamous incidence, but at the same time exercises its creative freedom to the fullest. A lot of details and sequences in the film are tampered with along with the central characters’ names. For example, Rustom (played by Akshay Kumar) fights his own case in the court without a lawyer which did not happen in real life. Nanavati had a lawyer defending him. The prosecution was led by a young Ram Jethmalani back then.

The media influence in shaping the public opinion is evidently shown with Kumud Mishra killing it with his portrayal of a Parsi middle-aged man, running a leading weekly. The tampering with the story line makes it confusing for the viewer to comprehend what exactly unfolded. Akshay Kumar delivers a fine and believable performance as a Parsi naval officer who dots on his wife. Atif Aslam rejuvenates your life with his soul stirring voice in his romantic renditions. 


Having an extremely powerful and interest invoking case at hand and an actor of Akshay Kumar’s calibre to bring it across on screen, the film still fails to keep you hooked for long, unlike the promising trailer which had sent my expectations skyrocketing. 


But, as they say, there is always a silver lining to every cloud. As far as the weekend goes, go for Happy Bhag Jayegi. You won’t regret.