Suddhasatya Ghosh

Where Farmers Fear

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA, INDIA (CINEMA MINIMA) — Vidarbha is a region in the state of Maharastra in India. Poor India, that is Bharat resides here for too long. This belt, which have mountain, river, plateau and plain, is consisted of mostly tribal peoples like Gonds and Korkus. Population distribution has been according to the topographical nature. Where it is steep and hazardous that is less populated and when river and fertile plain gives a comfort there is an increase in it. But the most important part of topography is soil structure. 75% of the land in Vidarbha has black soil which can be classified into three major categories like shallow black, medium black and deep black and rainfall is between 898.4 to 1314 mm annually. Coefficient of variability of rainfall is between 23-26% . This land has not developed in irrigation much and that has divided the pattern of crops. Well irrigated areas are small, but affords higher population (average of 150 persons per Km) who live by the support of Paddy agriculture . Cotton or millet crop supports the average of less than 100 persons per Km in less populated and less irrigated areas.

Cotton needs black soil. Once British colonial rulers had cotton from this land to the mills of Lancashire in cheap and made huge profit out of that. But the condition of farmers had hardly improved. Even after independence farmers were strangled time and again by the middlemen and money lenders. Various banks under the auspice of Indian government were supposed to support the farmers through loan for seeds, tractors or tilling means. But it almost remained in paper. Yet these farmers had continued their survival in a hard uncomplaining way. In the last few years situation had taken a dramatic turn. On 30th June, 2006 one Ramdas Ganpat Bhagat had committed suicide only to join his name in the list of more than 1600 farmers who died allegedly by being debt ridden. The then prime minister of India Mr. Manmohan Singh was supposed to visit that region at that time.

Ramdas took that poison actually which India took under the Congress regime by signing GATT. Prime minister of now a days India, MR. Manmohan Singh, was finance minister then. He was earlier an employee of World Bank. He lead the triumvirate that includes Mr. Pranab Mukharjee and Mr. P.Chidambaram to open up India to neo-liberal policies. In today’s Congress regime too Mr. Mukharjee is finance minister and Mr. Chidambaram is home minister of India. Mr. Singh has excelled to the post of Premiership. Trio is active and India is waiting to face the onslaught of another open up process.

Chandan Bhaduri, a David from West Bengal has taken up to fight this Goliath with a documentary ‘Where Farmers Fear’. He had been to Vidarbha at that period when one after another suicide were taking place. He strenuously investigated the whole causalities and came to a conclusion that India’s so-called liberal economy is responsible for this. Cotton exporter India has been reduced to a mino by the import syndrome. India and other developing countries are yet to open up the interim markets of United States of America and his allies. They has failed till date to pursue these big states to stop subsidizing their farmers,  whereas they themselves had to stop it immediately after signing the treaty. In India banks are playing to neo-liberal dictates and are not providing loans to farmers in most possible occasions. Thus they are being thrown to the hands of vulture money lenders who squeezes a steep interest from them. Governments, as usual, deny this and Chandan’s penetration in the heart of this issue proves that the government is lying.

In a part of his documentary we meet a village which is for sell in it’s entirety. It has no water, no electricity, no food, no health-centre or care. It had lands that are dry now. It had failed crops and broken inhabitants. One of them is sitting idly on road whom Chandan encounters. He vomits all his bitterness in a missive missile attack. He has lost hope. He now does not regard any institution or good will. It all seems a farce to him. This could have been the case of another state of India too. In Kerala farmers were doing almost the same thing. Coffee, a cash crop, had ruined them due to lack of rain and governmental policies. But the state of Kerala under the commission of Mr. Prabhat Patnayak, an economist who is noted for his anti-liberal stand, had combated it successfully. The Kerala government of Mr. Acchyutanandan had waived crores of rupee loans from the sagging shoulder of distressed farmers. They were using psychologists to strengthen the nerves of depressed farmers.

The Maharastra government under the leadership of Mr. Sharad Pawar, who is India’s minister of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Affairs, are sending so-called godmans to help farmers. This government is ready to provide outworldy solution rather than an actual one. Mr. Pawar and his party NCP (Nationalist Congress Party), a Congress ally, is backing government’s economical policies.  He himself is busy with the affairs of BCCI (Board of Cricket Control in India) and is prompt to announce a bulky prize money to players who will hit sixes in T20 tournament of IPL (Indian Premier League). He had been accused by oppositions in number of occasions in Chandan’s documentary as being hand in glove with Monsanto Corporation, the giant seed company whose genetic engineering and its business is under suspicion worldwide. The region of Vidarbha is facing the consequences of his act too. Resistances in the local levels are growing, but yet not so strong to derail the whole process of so-called liberalization.

Chandan’s movie has been an witness to all these varied and valuable truths.He himself is a man who has a defect in his walking. But surely he walks with his head held high. He has the courage to hold the mirror to a naked king. When he met that lonely, bitter fellow in the village which is ready for an outright sell, he asked him whether that fellow is satisfied with the governance. The man is intoxicated with local and cheap variety of alcoholic substance. He barely can stand. But after another burst of missives he asked in a clear and penetrating manner, “How we will live brother!”

That is the question India, that is Bharat and not signing, is asking for decades and no body from the ruling class is paying heed to that. Chandan Bhaduri, with his often slow fade in and outs and dissolves and often quick cuts, jump cuts is carrying these questions to an illuminating human documentation. This movie is one of the strongest and honest documentary made in India in the recent past and kudos to Chandan for that.

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DEVDAS, broken dreams and wings of Anurag Kashyap

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA, INDIA–DEV D, the movie, will be releasing on 6th February, 2009. This one novel DEVDAS by eminent Bengali writer Saratchandra Chattapadhyaya has previously been transmitted to movie medium for several times. But before getting into the movie mania let us discuss a bit about the author’s time-space in which he wrote this.DEV D

It was 1917 and India is not the one as it is now. It was a subcontinent that includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh of today and the British rule had Myanmar, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet under it’s control. A new class of mainly Hindu aristocrats and middle society was awakening towards the development that was happening in Western part of the world. They had seen it from distance and then gradually had imbibed some of it into their own system. They were at a loss in that crossroad of history to find an identity of suitable nature. They could not be turned into westerners overnight and the landlords or moneyed government servants could not even stand their own state of affairs as it was too outdated.

The larger society of Hindus were used to the dominance of Islamic rulers until British came and they had served them too unhesitatingly, only to get  their previous rulers at par.Then there were class divisions too. Most of the peasants were exploited to the hilts by British taxation and by it’s own Hindu or Muslim landlords. Leaders from regions who grew under British influence was trying to float a pan Indian nationalism in the model of European nation-state. They were eager to establish at least a honorable ground to stand before their new masters.

For the first time in the history of this sub-continent this vast tract had came under a single ruler and ruling system. Certain leaders had interpreted that mighty British rule was invincible and even they had find it more favorable than all the previous rules. That section had appealed to British rulers to be taken into account for part in governance and had pressed for a home rule under British commonwealth. But not all had shared that enthusiasm. Some others knew that arms and counter violence could be handy to throw away tyranny. To which Gandhi was an answer on the days political perspective and he came with non-violence and even picked up non-co-operation that was practiced in 1905 in Bengal previously by others. But in 1917 he was in Champaran movement and was developing his weapons to dominate Indian political scenario till 1947. He was yet to come.

Older DevdasGuns and Bombs were fatigued by that time and a shift had been started towards Socialistic and Communist ways from Nihilist activities. But that shift were too far from middle class youths of Bengal who were in the upfront of violent fights. They were confused, divided in numerous groups of which mostly had self serving narrow interests only. Home rule was not in their cards and violent campaigns were not doing miracles. Yet a better part of Bengali youths had been far from freedom movements too and they were desperate to get a job in British governmental system. There were few. So the competitions and heart-breaks went up hand in hand.

Now here enters DEVDAS (a Bengali name for a youth) the novel and it was an instant success. A big landlord’s son Devdas came back to his village from his study and had renewed his childhood love interest in village belle Parbati. But that was not for long. Soon he had to leave her under family pressure as Parbati’s social status did not meet his. Parbati, although shattered by this betrayal, had came to terms with reality and had married an elder widower. Devdas went off from that village only to find out Parbati later on. He tried hard to convince Parbati to elope with him and failed. His confidence was devastated and he grew into an alcoholic while booting another love offer from a courtesan Chandramukhi. He was lost, he was bloodied by egoism, he was beyond salvation. Chunilal, another agent of a wretched time, who lived on a parasitic existence and had no prick of conscience, which nature often spills from poverty and hopelessness of human escapade from de-colored life, had made Devdas his pray. He had introduced him to Chandramukhi and in return lived a luxurious parasitic life. Devdas’s father had died in the meantime and left a huge property to be destroyed only by his successor.  Devdas on sensing that his final stage was coming went to see Parbati again, only to meet death on road. He died of alcoholism. He died from the shock of ever deluding identity. He died from the lack of courage. As a final salute to destiny in desperate time-space his saga had lived therefore.

First Devdas movie was made in 1928. That was not upto the mark. Most famous adaptation in Bengali was made by Pramathesh Barua in 1935 and his cinematographer Bimal Roy had made another in 1955, which was in Hindi. There were other productions based on Devdas  too in Hindi, Bengali and Tamil languages. When Pramathesh was making that movie a wide spat between Subhas Chandra Bose (a leader of Congress who eclipsed others including Gandhi, in his steadfast demand of freedom instead of Home rule or Dominion Status) and Gandhi follower right wing leadership was open in public. Petty compromises were ruining freedom struggles and frustrated jobless youths were growing in numbers. Subhas was not that influential to stand up and move ahead against the wishes of Gandhi in those days, though he was the then Congress president. As political leaderships were failing, situations were only worsening. In this confused state of affair Pramathesh came out with DEVDAS. It had phenomenal success.

Then as India became independent and there was none to blame for her miseries it had to stand alone after 1947. All the flames of rising hopes had been put off harshly by the coming years of 1950′s and 1960′s. Joblessness, poverty, black-marketing, corruptions grew hand in hand. Frustration in social lives were showing off. No respite despite British absence was clear to the literate class. Again Bimal Roy had succeeded like Pramathesh and Dilip Kumar became icon as Devdas. A femme fatale of Indian cinema, Suchitra Sen had been Parbati or Paro (nicknamed by Devdas and her family) and she too was mind blowing. When BlACK famous Sanjay Leela Bhansali had interpreted DEVDAS in 2002, he had cast Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi. Madhuri has an uncanny similarity of eyes with Suchitra and in India Suchitra is venerated as Marilyn Monroe. Sanjay had cleverly changed Bimal Roy’s cast pattern and had Aiswharya Rai as Parbati. Shah Rukh Khan, one leading star of Bollywood had fit in the place of Dilip Kumar, who was known in Indian cinema as tragedy king. Interestingly Shah Rukh has a influence of Dilip Kumar on him and Sanjay’s tricks had nearly payed. But despite being a box-office success it had not produced anything similar to earlier releases of Pramathesh or Bimal Roy.                                  Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas

In 2002 Indian economy was looking good from the stock market point of view and there were huge number of stories of fat purses that was created due to outsourcing of US based IT companies and service sectors. Though there were no real growth in terms of classical industries and no opening for millions of jobless youths still there were hopes for it in the air. At that point of a time a devastating tale like DEVDAS had a restrained influence on the multiplex goers with thick back pocket loads.

But now the gaps are wide open. All the hidden wounds are showing. Recently the demise of Satyam Computer Service Limited tells the exact tale. It had it’s income inflated to many times than the real one and now can not bridge the gap. The flip side of phony Indian economy is showing it’s true color gradually. In this context the new DEV D (DEVDAS) by Anurag Kashyap is catching attentions.

This Devdas comes back from studies abroad like so many well off upper-middle class or upper-class youths do now and renews his love lore with Parbati. Here Chandramukhi is a student who had been exposed in a sex-scandal through MMS and now is an escort girl in after sun period of the date. Music is rocky and steamy too. A pervasive use of vocabulary that which is common in subversive social nature been coined in the forms of lyric and a sleek look is expected for the Anurag Kashyap movie.

Abay DeolAbhay Deol as Devdas, Mahi Gil as Parbati and Kalki as Chandramukhi is far from all previously star studded DEVDAS and that is why it is DEV D. But the most important deviation is in Chunilal casting. In all versions stars had played that character, though small but very important as catalyst, and they had seldom done justice to it. But this time Anurag has cast Dibyendu Bhattacharya in it. Debu is a very powerful actor who had been utilized in a lesser scale even by te likes of Meera Nair or Ketan Mehta. He is thoughtful, intense, all act no glory kind and pitch black in tone. He is a definite departure in cast interpretation and will be monitored closely therefore.

What more is in it will be known after release only! But the development of Devdas in pan-Indian pschyche demands not only a deft handling but also the near absurd depiction of destructive frustration that which is infectious. This infections go down to the people from movies and to movies from time-space of this nation of broken promises and dreams.

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MOHANDAS- depiction of a Gandhian by chance

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA, INDIA –India had to pay dear for it’s independence. Other than the blood-stained partitions it had also been deprived of a Gandhi, who was Mohandas Karamchand and a lonely soldier of his battle for his truth. He was one who had transformed Congress into a mass platform for independence movement and was not above controversy on doing so.  He was beyond Congress by his political and substantial reach towards Indian people at times of need and this movie MOHANDAS by Mazhar Kamran is truly beyond that protagonist Mohandas.

Mohandas, a Dalit (lower cast in cast-strata of Indian society) youth had been a student of first rate throughout his academic career. Set in post independent Indian background his character even challenges reservation syndrome that divides the whole nation into a battle ground for general and other backward classes. Here, it is believed that Dalits and other lower cast stratum are traditionally deprived of knowledge and money power by upper casts conspiracy from the ages of Vedas (so-called sacrosanct religious texts of Hindus), though they are the real India. They are largest in numbers and poorer in gatherings. So the conscious section of this Indian society had argued and successfully achieved a larger reservation for them in educations and governmental jobs.

These exploited casts need state protection to be at par with dominant Brahmins and Khsatriyas (two leading casts who are priests, teachers and warriors of Hindu society) along with Vaishyas (cast for business people who are third in traditional respect). One day when they will be ready for fair competition the reservation system will be withdrawn by the state. V.P.Singh government had implemented Mandal commission report to protect weaker casts on the basis of above mentioned argument. It had horizontally divided Hindu, as well as Indian society at large in demands and decent. Major political upheavals had followed and the last one was seen in 2008 itself with general cast medical and business management students of AIIMS (All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences) and IIM (Indian Institute of Management)-s in the lead. In the past this reservation issue had made or broke several governments in regions and centre too. Parties, such as BSP  [Bahujaan Samajbadi (Socialist)Party], SP [Samajbadi (Socialsit) Party] are in vogue that call them messiah of Dalits or other lower casts like Yadav-s.

Kamran had started with a telling hit on that thesis on depicting this character to be on his own to achieve glory. From my personal knowledge I could not disagree with this portrayal. Because I have such friends from Dalit or SC (Scheduled cast) or ST (Scheduled Tribe) who had never taken any advantage of that reservation. But they are not those who are first generation educated and they have a good monetary support system too. A first generation educated Dalit youth on one’s own capacity is really an exception. Yet Kamran had taken this character to move through and I think to establish a farm ground to make his coming points even stronger.

That boy Mohandas had became a beaming youth and then faded away in the remote corner of rural India. He had competed for several jobs and finally had wrestled one of a colliery manager only to lose in a peculiar circumstances. He had  never received appointment letter for that job, although he had topped the list. His mystery had been pursued, quite by chance, by a local journalist Anil and then by Meghna Sengupta, a national media server. This Dalit from Madhyapradesh of India, had been cheated by the system. His job had been taken by fraudulence and the recipient was none other than upper cast Bishwanath who used to fail in examinations at their college days and was jealous of Mohan since.

Mazhar had made this Anuppur coliary a mini India. Bishwanath was living a life of luxuary at the expense of Dalit Mohandas, just the same as upper cast exploitations in Indian history since castist divide. That fraud was defended by the then state powers (here corrupt police and coal officials). That corruption by Bishwanath and his associates in return had been challenged by consciuos and aggrived media people, a local lawyar, a  honest judge. Mohandas in several stages of that battle for truth and identity (as he was ridiculosly put into test by cruel system to prove that he was Mohandas indeed) had lost and won in seasaw movements. He won the court case only to emphatically lose the final battle. His friend and lawyar had got killed and Bishwanath had finally won inspite of a jail sentence. Meghna Sengupta, when had travelled to that remote extent of India to share Mohandas’s defeat as her own too,  was at a lose. Being thrown to an unexpected and unseen dark corner of contemporary India she was utterly confused on reactions. Mohandas was refusing to identify him as Mohandas.

Just in the beginning of this complex saga Mohandas was in that state too. Then he came out to fight again on the insistance of justice seeking India. But all the measures of legal protection and reservation had failed to deliver justice at the end. This is the face of real India that is refusing to admit discriminations against Dalits and other lower casts (of racial and skin-colour based nature) in UN and is proclaiming that they are well protected here. How can they be?

Identity of Mohandas, a Gandhian by chance, who never rebells with arms, even in utter desparations of his crisis ridden life, is also a metaphorical one. After the death of Gandhi his place had been taken by some Bishwanath like politicians through fraudulent Gandhi cap and white Kurta (traditional Indian wear). Gandhi, if alive, will probably refrain India to identify him as a political leader in this muddy business that is totally bereft of his life-long love of truth.

Mazhar had subtly infused these thoughts in his movie. A main-stream cinematographer of repute had taken a substantial risk to make a movie like this. Uttam Haldar as Anil and Sonali Kulkarni as Meghna had delivered some brilliant performances to lend a good hand to him. But Nakul Vaid as Mohandas was far from impressing. Probably he had missed the subtext to be a hero in it and Kamran had a responsibility in it. He has to handle his resources better in his future projects. I found that Uttam is under rated here, though he is miles ahead from others and technically I myself will like to see someone with Uttam’s darkish skin-tone to act as a Dalit than a fair complexioned Nakul. This, to some extent, is historical and anthropological need too.

I had a viewers response after this movie’s screening in Kolkata Festival. That was overwhelming. People are crying, raging with anger and at the same time congratulating Mazhar Kamran from the core of their hearts. Now as I have been informed that they are ready to release MOHANDAS in India very soon I am glad to report this advent to my beloved Cinema Minima followers. This tale of one Mohandas is outstanding even among so-many Gandhi hyped movies of rescent times. This maker is going to be one major after the fashion of Govind Nihalni in Mumbai and Hindi moviedom.

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MARCELLO MARCELLO, BLIND: Two would-be good movies, and an evening at Kolkata Festival 2008

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA FILM FESTIVAL 2008, INDIA (CINEMA MINIMA) — This evening I have two actors with me at the theatre who had turned into directors — Denis Rabaglia and Tamar van den Dop — courtesy of MARCELLO MARCELLO and BLIND. I had hoped that I would have some good performances, as well, in their movies — and I was right.

In MARCELLO MARCELLO Francesco Mistichelli is truly wonderful as Marcello. I read that he had been chosen after auditions of 1,200 and that’s a lot, really (I can imagine the long queue for that audition). I even can remember Mahsen Makhmalbaf‘s CINEMA CINEMA with this. The first sequence begins with a long queue of would-be actors and then, gradually, we the viewers — along with those actors — start to understand a few things about cinema at the occasion of one hundred years of cinema. But I am afraid that these two directors have yet to learn those lessons.

MARCELLO MARCELLO, I fear, will do a lot more harm to Denis because — at the mention of that name-sound — we have a giant in our mindscape, and that is Fellini. Why is Denis after that revered screen name of another giant, Mastroianni?

The last thing was that this movie, too, is in Italian. Too much of a tough situation here and I am unable to consider his movie lightly. He has a linear narration of love, hate, despair, frustration, and religion. Most complex subjects that is being treated narrowly from the ancient past and had produced so many trashes and this one with its usual cinematography, edit and a placid music score is one among them. At the end, this is a very ordinary film.

Next, BLIND from Tamar van den Dop — a drama student (and an actor herself) — has a beginning that is probably too dramatic. She knows the theatre — and that, too, is of a petty, Roman nature. You know that ancient Rome had killed the drama (or the theatre) of Greece. She — a Dutchwoman — is pretty nearer to Ibsen stuff. A graceful psychological light arrangements, music score with strings playing, an ice-clad backdrop and we were all set to see where she gets from here. The house that has Ruben in is Romanesque in architectural symptom and that is pretty stoic indeed.

Ruben — a befitting character in that palace-like home — delivers a few moments of good performance. Others, too, coöperate and contribute their moments of glory in acting. But the appointed reader — who is sighted in the blind world of Ruben — has the minimum scope to prove her mettle. She has a very little time-space to transit from weary and tortured human being, to sweet lover. She did her best, but the director is seemed to be in a hurry to get the act together in the shape of a movie. It is not actor’s fault. She has a cocktail of Fassbinder and Tarkovsky pattern visuals and a narrative that is not worth it.

Ruben — after getting back his sight — has lost Marie, his love and that ugly-shaped reader. Everybody in this narration is concerned about the look; and this woman, too, believes that she is ugly, and therefore will not be loved by Ruben till her last breath. When Ruben fails to convince her about his love, finally he does an act that reminds me of Œdipus. He gets blind at the last sequence; and we remember a cliché — that the love is blind.

This evening has a gift for me. I had a grievance after seeing GULABI TALKIES yesterday: I was thinking that when we mention India in the moviedom, it is still the rural one, and that is so interesting to the viewers of wealthy nations that the urban life gets a back seat in even serious movies here. Now, I think I can tell you that we here, too, are saturated with searches of individuals in unnecessarily long and close shots and so-called love-and-hate relations.

This is time to be careful! We here are trying to take our movies beyond that rural plane and tribal atmosphere; and you — my dear filmmakers in wealthy parts of the world — must start to find your way out. Otherwise, we, too, will forget that your part of the world has ever been faced with economic depression, wars, and strife.

In BLIND it is a fairytale after the pattern of the Brothers Grimm‘s Snow White and is too boring for us and in MARCELLO MARCELLO, it is Mills and Boon at most.

This again is a reminder that being director is not an easy job. It needs to have a sense for the right thing at right time and a serious lesson on how movie works. These two actors, I think, will need some more time to be good directors at least, being best is too far for them at least for now.

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GULABI TALKIES: Politics of Image, Image of Politics at 2008 Kolkata Film Festival

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. 2008 KOLKATA FILM FESTIVAL, INDIA (CINEMA MINIMA) — I must start with an incident inside the movie theatre. This theatre is an old one, named Basushree. Our good filmmakers often had opened their movies here in the past. Now, like all other theatres it is in a form of decadence. Cine Central has to cope up with odds every time for this festival. But that’s the way it is.

Let’s get back to the incident. An old gentleman was seating by my side. He had his spouse with him. In the end part of GULABI TALKIES, Gulabi was showing her strength and independence even against religiously motivated and male-dominated fisher folks. At that time I heard that gentleman was asking his wife to leave, because she had to cook at night. She — an elderly woman too — was refusing. It went till the last shot and — by being refused — that gentleman took offence and had left the theatre before his wife. She sat there till the last shot. I was engrossed in thoughts — Is she another Gulabi in another class? Does she has that serious strength to laugh at all odds and go for a ride through bitterest span of life?

Director Girish Kasaravalli has weaved a narrative that is centred on a middle-aged character of Muslim lineage, and that Gulabi has become strong enough to fight against all odds. She takes things positively. At the beginning we find her as a regular movie goer who passes her time in a make-belief world to forget her own shattered life. This is the case with every ordinary folk in this part of the world and I think this has a universal character too. Therefore movies have become a powerful tool in the hands of oppressors around the world.

In return to her skilful midwife work she receives a colour television with a cable connection from another woman, Kalyani. Kalyani is a flesh-trader in that part of Kannada fisher folk village. Gulabi — with the power of this new weapon — connects her life with those of other villagers. Earlier she was left by her husband and villagers, who are mostly dominant Hindus, did think her untouchable. Now she gets into their woman folks proximity. Some become close enough to share there dreams and sorrows. She gradually leaves her obsession with song and dance movie sequence to join television serials and in her characteristic way she takes a positive lead from that too. She advices other woman to combat her mother in-law like the fictional character of a serial and she too shoes away her husband who came to her house after many years to see the television and commits adultery again in her absence.

Musa Kakka, her husband — who on being Muslim does not dither away to marry more than once — is a scum indeed. But that has nothing to do with his religion. He serves under a Suleman master, who has petrodollar finance and good boats and a factory for fish even. Musa lures labours with money and gradually buys administration to get a grab in the local market. Most Hindu fisher merchants like Vasanna have to suffer from the attack of Suleman’s big money and therefore they rise into opposition with the help of a religiously fundamental fascist political party.

In the meantime, in the time-space of this movie that is set in the period of Bharatiya Janata Party‘s rule in the centre Kargil War breaks free. A war for a few metres of ice-clad land with shadow fighters of Kashmir independence and who are supposedly backed by India’s neighbour Pakistan and this war have left many a questions than proper answers. But on the basis of that war this political party tries to drum up a fanaticism of so-called patriotism that even targets our Gulabi.

She is walking through a road when some boys ask her to contribute in Kargil war fund to help the soldiers. She does not bother to know anything of that sort and she is used to switch-off her cable connected television at the time of News. So she avoids them. A man from the other side of the road who is Hindu donates and comments that Muslims are not ever bothered to help India as norms. This is a real belief in our general Hindu domain that every Muslims are opposed to India in any form of combat, may it be cricket (that is very popular here) or in the real battlefield.

Girish scores here absolutely. He handles the tension of business to its logical conclusion of political rivalry and then has dealt a master stroke. At the height of tension he lets us know that Indian government has approved Germany and Japan to fish into its deep shores. He sublimely puts a question on this political party’s nationalist agenda and at the end through a subtitle announces that at that point of time government of Karnataka had made a policy to give at least one television to each village. That means the propaganda machinery needs reception and by that only it assures itself of a fanatic following. Presently in India we see that each and every Tele network has a political bias and that is not just coincidental.

Girish knows the politics of image and therefore he deals it carefully. Gulabi, who is engrossed in make-believe world of television, enters her tinny hut after she shoos away her adulterous husband. She switches off that television which sometime ago was entertaining her husband and now she slumps to seat. We see it through the television screen in reflection. It goes on for long to understand that how captive we are in that idiot box and how shallow it is as it never depicts any Gulabi at all. Even at the end when Gulabi on being accused of woman trafficking is being evicted from that Hindu-dominated village forcefully, Girish rises to the occasion. He sets Gulabi to seat leg folded like an idol that Hindus are used to worship and finally the one who is familiar with this iconic value will understand that this is the time of immersion. As she sits in the boat alone, a boy — who is the elder child of Vasanna the conspirator — goes to her. He asks her to come again. This also resembles that goddess immersion process, where the ritual is to ask her to come again. Girish slaps the heinous fascist at the face from the rest of concerned India that is not Hindu or Muslim predominantly, that is human at the very base.

Well, I told you earlier that Girish is an interesting Indian face in moviedom. He is not much touted and yet he is powerful in his talks and silences. He is powerful in imageries too.

But here I must add something. He has made this film a bit long to handle this individual and political space. Somewhere down the line it urges for a finer blending. I fear that he has ten movies in one and that has become its problem. Again, this is quite logical in the present worldwide political scenario where giant corporations and monopolies are out to kill serious movies with the aid of state power and policies. Nowadays a good filmmaker does not know when exactly one can get another chance to make another movie. So that maker intends to share all with viewers in one go. That’s the most pathetic part of movie business now; and Girish Kasaravalli — as a committed filmmaker — I think has not escaped that feeling at all.

But at the end, GULABI TALKIES has become a true image of Indian politics. I think these thoughts of mine have a sharer in that elderly, yet strong lady and that is the most remarkable success of Girish’s GULABI TALKIES.

Buy the book at Amazon.com: Gulabi Talkies and Other Stories by a short story by Vaidehi (Janaki Srinivasa Murthy), translated into English from the Kannada-language original. Your purchase through this link supports Cinema Minima.

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GULABI TALKIES opens Kolkata 2008 International Forum of New Cinema

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA INDIA (CINEMA MINIMA) — A few hours from now, the International Forum of New Cinema 2008 in Kolkata will be officially open with Girish Kasaravalli‘s GULABI TALKIES. Mrinal Sen — one of the favourite directors of Girish — will be there, with actor Saumitra Chatterjee, one of the favoured actors of late maestro Satyajit Ray.

Girish is an interesting face of Indian cinema for long. In a recent interview he had talked about politics of image. When he was giving that interview he was in Maharastra, India. At that time an ambitious politician of Maharastra had called for a violent agitation against North Indians in particular and against all non-Marathi outsiders in general. Television channels were showing a jeep burning time and again as a proof of major disturbance there. I myself had worked in audio-visual form of journalism for long to understand that this is being overplayed. It happens sometimes, because in the capitalist form of competition you have to be the champion at any cost. It often leads to doping in the form of athletics and even Olympics too have to suffer from that. So I understood Girish’s point here without much ado.

GULABI TALKIES is based on a short story by Vaidehi. Gulabi — a marginal woman who is a Muslim and is left alone by her husband — is the protagonist. I think — in the world of 9/11 and post terrors by states and terrorist outfits — one can easily understand the importance of a Muslim character in a movie; and how far can the consequent development can go.

Girish as a maker is very keen on commenting. He uses a narration to bridge between his views on contemporary India and in actuality every maker does it in one sense or the other. The beauty of Girish is he is never loud or is never shy! This time too we will see what he has in his magic box.

Set in the backdrop of a fisherfolk village of Karnataka, India, Gulabi will live through her talkies; and I, in return, will count those moments for you, my readers. Till then, adieu!

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Kolkata International Forum of New Cinema 2008

BY SUDDHASATYA GHOSH. KOLKATA, INDIA (CINEMA MINIMA) — Cine Central — probably the largest film society in Asia — will screen 70 films from 30 countries as part of the 14th Kolkata Film Festival to be held here 2008 November 10-17. A good selection of movies — from Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iran, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Pakistan, Sweden, South Korea, Slovakia, and Uruguay — will be warming the occasion. A tribute to Che Guevara to commemorate his 80th birthday in the ‘Documedia’ section; homages to Cuban Humberto Solas and Egyptian Youssef Chahine; and a good bunch of Turkish, Norwegian, and Dutch contemporary movies are some of the interesting aspects of this festival.

Wait! The list is yet to complete: There is a Tribute section to Manoel de Oliveira, the documentarist of ACTO DE PRIMAVERA | RITE OF SPRING and of FRANCISCA. Believe me I am all in hunger to face him in the dark theatre. I remember him as a forerunner to Italian neo-realist trend with his depiction of Oporto’s street children. Some months ago as I was watching TRAFFIC SIGNAL, a movie by an Indian director Madhur Bhandarkar from Mumbai’s so-called offbeat class, I was just thinking about Oliveira’s influence in movie world.

Well — I am rarin’ to go. It will start on 14th November. This Cine society had a great influence in our movie culture. But as the censorship is too tough in India, it is difficult for them to get uncensored movies from around the world to exhibit. They have a fund crunch, too.

I think these and some other reasons had made them work with the state government of West Bengal after they had started this festival at 1986 as the first independent International festival in India. That time it was called “Calcutta International Film Festival”; and now it is International Forum of New Cinema from 1998, after the collaboration with the government.

There is another thing that I noticed here — the absence of digital representations. I will ask them about it soon. Whatever the problems are — these few good men, volunteers of movie world, are not compromising on quality. That is why this festival is a must for the movie maniacs of India till date — and you may count me as one.

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