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. 

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