Archive for the month “July, 2012”

A ‘Third Way’ in the Hills: Bela Negi’s Film Daayen Ya Baayen(2010)

By Dhiraj kr. Nite

 It has been a refreshing feel of watching a movie Daayen Ya Baayen, directed by Bela Negi. I share my opinion over this two-year old movie at a time when the cinematic technique, storytelling, and plot of Gangs of Wasseypur (directed by Anurag Kashyap) have successfully drawn rave reviews from the viewer. This discursive backdrop of Gangs of Wasseypur urges me to present my commentary on Daayen Ya Baayen (hereafter DYB), which appears in a certain way an antidote to the former movie. Take an example. The plot of DYB could have perfectly combined a few fight scenes. Instead, Bela Negi gracefully concentrated on two different orders of violence and fight. One relates to the ecological violence committed by new mining activity on the Himalayan hills. Second concerns itself with the emergence of fighting awareness regarding the on-going calamitous path of opulence; and the resolution adopted to move away from such an anomaly.

The story prima facie narrates the desire, dream, and initiatives of a city-returned man – a schoolteacher (Ramesh Majila) – who is disillusioned with the life in Bombay and returns to the Uttrakhand hills. He intends to do something in the village itself for a descent, free life. By sheer coincidence he receives a red car to become locally popular. The red car also invites jealousy of others to its owner. He is interested in getting opened a Kala – Kendra in the hill village with a view to have opportunities for local artists to nurture and express their talent. They would not migrate to and face a rough tide in the un-embracing cities.

The subscripts of DYB illuminate more shades of collective hill life than its main plot. As a whole its delivery of plot and cinematic presentation are finesse and enjoyable. Like the movie ‘Om Dar Badar’ directed by Kamal Swaroop, DYP is a cinematic representation of a space. Or, to put it in other words a space (Uttrakhand hills) is the character itself than a passive backdrop in the movie. The movie captures varieties of physical and human activities, voices, emotions, and exchanges taking place in that space. It engages with their manners of manifestation. The fleeting appearance of forest fires and captivating presence of the TV serials between the women serve that intent. Likewise is the transient appearance of a sedate, beguiling woman clad in the red sari on a bus. The characters are rooted in the intersection of time and space; hence are there a number of sub-scripts harmoniously interwoven. The hill, the forest fires, and the buffalo – calf are as much symbolic representatives of the space as the rest of social being.

The plot embodies the narrative realism. The non-linear progress of life course characterises both the large trope and other sub-tropes. There are incidental happenings, like the lottery of a red car won through submission of a jingle. At times, the protagonist regresses in his life course. Liquor embraces him like other hill youth. Such a moment is as ordinary incidence as the effort of the protagonist to bounce back on the path of a hope in a new rise of the red son in the hills. There is no extraordinariness either with the moment of regression or the recovery from it.

The movie interweaves the director’s critical message about the development path seen in the hills. It argues in favour of the ecological sustainable path of betterment. The message impressively comes through, for the storytelling does not become preachy. The message remains interwoven with the life course of the protagonist and the hills. Not ironically, whenever the protagonist’s attempt to preach his new vision and judgment invariably draws flak from other characters. Two significant messages come along in an understated way. The Ramesh Majila submits to the charm of a beguiling woman clad in a red sari who is always on move. She refuses to accommodate the kid of Ramesh on her bus-seat. The facial reaction of Ramesh conveys his dismal with the reality: the beguiling physical appearance does not necessarily incubate a humane, pleasant inner-self. The latter should receive more attention and regard than the former one which could be misleading. At one point, Ramesh agrees to campaign for the incumbent chief minister of the state. In return, he hopes to materialise his dream of a Kala – Kendra in his village. He explains this bargain to his inquisitive son: he is making a small sacrifice in favour of an important, big thing to come. There is not much time spent on making his statement exemplary. The director undertakes a rapid movement of scenes towards the protection of a buffalo – calf at the expense of a popular car. This is tantamount to a virtual protection of the hill life and its environ.

The deployment of symbolism and frames of the camera immensely enriches the plot and comes out smoothly to convey the message of the director. Two examples are worth to note. The sedate, pretty woman on the bus was effectively beguiling. But, she embodied the misleading superficial goodness. Her nasty treatment of the child (Baju Majila) exposes her ugly inner spiritual being, and thus, functions as repellent to Ramesh. The latter saves his buffalo-calf by putting at stake his life and car. He installs the gate of a new Kala – Kendra next to the place where his jettisoned car has been irrevocably hanging. The car initially appeared as a means to attain community respect. The calf was presumed as a burden. Towards the end, this equation undergoes a turn upside down.

The title of the movie Daayen Ya Baayen refers to the right and left paths of development or social change. Bela Negi does not intend to resolve the conflict between the two models of development by showing her any simplistic prejudice for one against the other. The third way suggested in the movie bursts forth as a case by case choice. The people in Uttrakhand hills need a Kala – Kendra, but the mining appears destructive and undesirable. DYB is possibly only one movie in the recent time where the Ramesh returns to the village with intent of discovering an opportunity of descent, free life. Only the malefic spirit moves away from the village to a town. Urbanisation and industrialisation are no longer universal signs of social progress as per Bela Negi’s third way. Accolade!

 Dhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, University of Johannesburg,  Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi.

निराला की समकालीनता: कुछ सूत्र-बिन्दु : विजय कुमार

By  विजय कुमार 

  •  दोस्तोवोस्की के लिए सुन्दरता एक चाहना है, इसीलिए वो त्रास है, और त्रास व सुन्दरता दोनों कभी एक दूसरे से अलग हो ही नहीं सकते.
  • सुकरात तो फ़कीर टाइप के आदमी थे सड़कों पर चलते हुए प्रवचन देते थे और फिर उन्हें जहर का प्याला दिया गया. प्लेटो ने उनके विचारो को लोगों के बीच प्रसारित करना उचित समझा. लेकिन, इसी क्रम हुआ यह कि प्लेटो कब अपने विचारों को सुकरात के नाम से कहने लगा पता ही नहीं चला. इसमें हुआ यह कि प्लेटो सुकरात के बहाने अपने समय के विचारों में सुकरात को देखने लगा.
  • १२ वीं-१३ वीं सदी के कवि थे ‘दांते’. उनके बारे में २० वीं सदी के एक आधुनिक कवि मोंताले ने, जो इटली के एक कवि थे, दांते भी इटली के थे, एक बहुत खुबसूरत बात कही है कि दांते में कुछ ऐसा है जो मेरा बहुत व्यक्तिगत है. और चूँकि मेरा बहुत व्यक्तिगत है इसलिए मैं उसके परे जाता हूँ और इस तरह दांते को ढूंढता हूँ. “Some thing is in myself which is relating to it to my own particular experience of Dante. It could amount more personal and therefore worthy and being reported and discussed here.”
  • एक निराला रामविलास शर्मा के हैं जो नवजागरण के अग्रदूत हैं, एक निराला दूधनाथ सिंह सिंह के हैं जो कि आत्महंता निराला हैं, एक तीसरा निराला रमेशचंद्र शाह के भी हैं जो प्रपत्तिभाव वाले निराला को वास्तविक निराला मानते हैं. और यहाँ तक कि हमारे युवा साथी प्रणय कृष्ण के भी निराला हैं, जो निराला को मार्क्सवाद की कसौटी पर कसते हैं और खरा नहीं पाते हैं. कुंवर नारायण जी के यहाँ भी चार तरह के निराला दीखते हैं- सामाजिक यथार्थ वाले निराला, गीतात्मक, राग और सौंदर्य के निराला, व्यंगकार निराला और अंत में अर्चना और आराधना वाले निराला. विजय कुमार इसमें ५ वाँ देशभक्ति और जागरण वाले निराला को जोड़ते हैं. एक व्यक्ति के अलग-अलग रूप दिखाई दे सकते हैं लेकिन एक सेंट्रल यूनिटी को निराला में तलाशना जरुरी है कि जो चार-पञ्च अलग-अलग रूप दिखाई देते हैं इनकी वास्तविक केंद्रीय अन्विति क्या है?
  •  फ्रेडरिक जेम्सन कहता है कि पूंजीवाद एक ऐसी अवस्था में पहुँच गया है जिसमें तीन चीजों पर उसने कब्ज़ा कर लिया है और मनुष्य लगभग खदेड़ दिया है, मनुष्य को उसके मनुष्यत्व  से बेदखल कर दिया है. १. प्रकृति २.ग्रामीण संस्कृति ३. मनुष्य के अंतःकरण
  • २१ वीं सदी को परिभाषित करते हुए इटालियो केल्विनो ने जिन पांच चीजों पर जोर दिया है वह आज के सबसे बेसिक मुद्दे लगते हैं-  १. स्पीड(गति) २. लौजिकल(यथातथ्य होना) ३. डिजिटल (छाविकेंद्रित) ४. लाइटनेस(हल्कापन) ५. PREDICTABILITY (पुर्वानुमेयता)
  • जिस दौर में हमलोग जी रहे हैं, हमारी ज्यादातर कविताएं अस्तित्व के संकट की कवितायें हैं, व्यक्तित्व के प्रस्फुटन की कविता नहीं है. व्यक्तित्व से अस्तित्व के संकट तक की यह यात्रा पूरे पूंजीवाद की विकास-यात्रा है.
  • व्यक्तित्व क्या है? व्यक्तित्व बनता है आपकी प्रतिरोधात्मक शक्ति द्वारा, सब कुछ दाँव पर लगा देने के द्वारा, एक रैडिकल मूलभूत आकर्षण को लेकर चलने के द्वारा. निराला में इस व्यक्तित्व की की जो गहनता है इसको हम कितनी तरह से परिभाषित कर सकते हैं!.. निराला का जो एक रूप है ‘व्यक्तित्व’ इसी व्यक्तित्व को आज हमें फैलाने का अवसर नहीं मिल रहा है. हमें बहुत सीमित कर दिया जा रहा है.
  •   दोस्तोवोस्की ने जितना पाप का और पुण्य का संघर्ष देखा, जितना देवत्व और शैतानियत का संघर्ष अपने अपने उपन्यासों में रचा, दोस्तोवोस्की से ज्यादा तो संसार में कोई भी व्यक्ति मनुष्य के भीतर के सत और असत  के संघर्ष का लगभग पागल कर देने वाला इतना बड़ा ड्रामा खड़ा नहीं ही किया है और वही दोस्तोवस्की अंत में क्रिश्चिनिटी की तरफ जाते हैं. लेकिन, यह क्रिश्चिनिटी धार्मिक क्रिश्चिनिटी नहीं है . दोस्तोवोस्की की क्रिश्चिनिटी उस त्रास की है जिसमें वे अपने आप को समर्पित कर देते हैं.
  • सुसेन सेन्टेक कहती हैं कि Artist is a narrator and also is a commentator. कलाकार एक बखान करता है और बखान करते हुए वो एक चिन्तक भी है. ये दोनों चीजें एक साथ चलती हैं  सरोज स्मृति जैसी कविता में .
  • ‘छायावादी कविता मूलतः बिम्ब है.’ इक्कीसवीं सदी का जो समय है उसने तो अब बिम्बों को भी हमारे हाथों से छीन लिया है. मास मीडिया बिम्बों का प्रोडक्सन हाउस हो गया है. कवियों-कलाकरों के सामर्थ्य के बाहर चला गया है, बिम्ब रचना.
  •  समकालीन हिंदी कविता में जो जो नरेशन बढ़ा है, narratives की एक नई परंपरा आयी है उसका कारण क्या है ? इसका कारण है कि बिम्ब की सत्ता इतनी ज्यादा ताकतवर हो गयी है आपके सामने कि अब उस बिम्ब के सामने आपको फिर से narratives को लाना पड़ेगा.

विजय कुमार (जन्म १९४९) कवि आलोचक एवं सम्पादक हैं। कविता की संगत इनकी प्रमुख आलोचना पुस्तकें है। ‘अँधेरे में विचार’ नामक पुस्तक भी खासी चर्चित. सदी के अंत में कविता (उद्भावना कविता विशेषांक) इनकी संपादित पुस्तक है।

(उपर्युक्त बिन्दुओं को  हिंदी विभाग, बी.एच.यू. द्वारा ४ जनवरी २०१२ को ‘निराला की समकालीनता’ विषय पर आयोजित कार्यक्रम में दिए गए व्याख्यान से  साभार लिया गया है, भाषण के पूर्ण और मूल रूप के लिए परिचय-११ का अंक देखें.)


  1. In Powers of Horror philosopher Julia Kristeva describes the idea with which she’s most closely identified, the abject, the intense horror our subjective psychology—and our bodies—experience when faced with corporeal reality: the edges of our body: filth, vomit, shit, blood, death: the me that is not me. Breakdown of subject and object: abject.
  2. Julia Kristeva shows up as a character, a phantom from a photograph in Roberto Bolaño’s story “Labyrinth,” collected in The Secret of Evil, new from New Directions.

  3. (Can there be a more Bolañoesque title than “Labyrinth”?)

  4. This is ostensibly a review of that Bolaño collection, but I’ll be riffing on some other things.

  5. Bolaño created his own genre. His oeuvre, piecemeal and posthumous at times, is nevertheless a complete fiction or discourse of its own. Think of the Bolañoverse like Middle Earth, like Yoknapatawpha County, like dark Narnia with no Aslan to redeem it.

  6. The Bolañoverse is abject. Consider the…

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Om Dar Ba Dar – A Pioneer in Indian Avant – Garde : Riddhiman Basu

By Riddhiman Basu

“Forget Bunuel, Jodorowsky or Warhol for a while! If there’s a single Indian film that draws you towards mind-blowing realm of post modernist…absurdist…surrealist blast to the senses, here’s the cult made by Kamal Swaroop.” This had been the reaction of one of my facebook friends(Hiren Dave), after watching ‘Om Dar Ba Dar’. This is considered to be a groundbreaking film in Indian cinema, pertaining to the avant-garde genre.

The term avant-garde film refers to the genre of innovative and experimental cinema. Avant-garde as a film movement started in Europe in the early 20’s notably among filmmakers like Rene Clair, Man Ray, Duchamp etc. In 1929 film auteur Luis Bunuel in collaboration with artist Salvador Dali created a short film ‘Un Chien Andalou’, that would become a benchmark for avant-garde films all over the world. The genre gradually spread to other parts of the world and resulted in various flavors of experimental filming. This was possible because avant-garde did not restrain itself to any particular format, rather opened up a boundless arena for experimentation on celluloid.

India did not lag far behind. Though avant-garde did not emerge as a major movement during the Indian New Wave, there have been attempts at experimental cinema since 1969(Uday Shankar’s ‘Kalpana’(1848) did contain elements of avant-garde, however, it is debatable whether it could be called a full fledged avant-garde film). However the first feature length film that could be classified as avant-garde (though not necessarily synchronous with the avant-garde movement) came in 1988 from the hands of an auteur known as Kamal Swaroop. ‘Om Dar Ba Dar’, was also the first avant-garde film to get national and international recognition and is still widely viewed and discussed among film enthusiasts.

Kamal Swaroop, a 1974 graduate from FTII Pune had previously worked on a collaboration project, ‘Ghasiram Kotwal’(1976) with the likes of Mani Kaul and also assisted Richard Attenborough during filming of ‘Gandhi’(1982). ‘Om Dar Ba Dar’ was his first solo film. Its release was preceded by a huge controversy in the censor board. However, it won Filmfare Critics Award for the Best Film in 1989. Today, after 20 years of its release, this film has attained a cult status.Preview

The film is a satirical representation of Indian life as a whole. However, this statement fails to give any insight into the film that is absurdist to the core. It eludes conventional narrative structure in general and comprises of a series of psychedelic and non-linear imagery that does not attempt to make sense on a whole. It rather comes across as a deconstruction of collective meaning.

At this point, I would try to give a brief overview of what distantly resembles a plot for the film. Om(Manish Gupta/Aditya Lakhiya) lives in Ajmer. His father Veer Shankar(Lakshminarayan Shastri), who is referred throughout the film as Babuji, is a retired government employee cum astrologer. After Om was born, Babuji discovered that he was destined to die at the age of 18 years, from his horoscope. He named the newborn child Om in an attempt to evade the agents of death, since he believed that the sound of ‘Om’ has never been heard in the jamalok. Om’s elder sister Gayatri(Gopi Desai) considers herself equal in stature to men and sits in men’s section of theatre to emphasize this. Jagdish(Lalit Tiwari), a young man shifts to Ajmer from Jhumritalaiya. He falls for Gayatri when he spots her bold demeanor in the cinema hall. He is further elated to discover that he and Gayatri have been requesting the same song on radio for years. Om meanwhile gains popularity in school due to his ability to hold breath underwater for a long time. Babuji buys Gayatri a bicycle. Jagdish takes the task of teaching her how to ride it. They come closer. Om celebrates a friend’s birthday at a terrace on the same night that Neil Armstrong and his crew land on the moon.

As days pass, we see Babuji setting up an astrology centre in his home and Jagdish becoming his typist. Gayatri also helps Babuji in receiving clients and carrying out the business.

Om has grown into a teenager. He is interested in science as well as mystics and occult and has a fascination for frogs. A lady named Phoolkumari(Anita Kanwar) arrives to consult Babuji. Since she is unable to pay them money, Babuji and Gayatri decide to appoint her as a typist, citing that Jagdish’s spelling is bad. This enrages Jagdish and he breaks off contact with them.

Om is in an adolescent phase and is attracted to Phoolkumari. Lala Lotamal, a businessman on fearing an approaching war; hides his diamonds in the soles of a pair of his shoes and gives it to Babuji for safekeeping.

Meanwhile, Jagdish visits Gayatri. She compels him to get involved physically with her. One day, Om runs off wearing the shoes with diamonds, unknowingly. Babuji suspects Phool and she puts a curse on him which would make him unable to leave his room forever. Om arrives at Lotamal’s private land where some of the diamonds fall off and are swallowed by frogs. When Lala Lotamal comes to claim the diamonds, Babuji convinces him that he has crushed the diamonds and mixed it in the food he is being served. He also instructs Lalaji to hold his bowels for fifteen days and defecate in his land on the night of full moon in order to sow an unlimited supply of diamonds. He also warns him that if anyone sees him in the process, that person should not see anyone else till morning. Lalaji goes to his own land on full moon night in order to comply. Om spots him in the act. Lalaji remembers Babuji’s advice and appoints Om as the guardian of his land. Om starts supplying frogs to a local girls’ school for biology practical lessons.

When these frogs are dissected in the Biology class, the girls discover diamonds in them. The word spreads and leads to a frog-hunt on Lalaji’s land by a mob, in search of diamonds. Though the diamonds have actually fallen off from Om’s shoes, Lalaji believes that they have come from his feces. Lalaji tries to stop this and is shot.

When Om returns home, Babuji tries to catch him. In the process he crosses the verandah and dies due to Phool’s curse. Om arrives at Pushkar. A local Brahmin discovers his ability to hold breath underwater and plans to utilize it for moneymaking. Since the time of Pushkar festival is approaching, he convinces Om to do his breath holding trick every night at 12. This brings a mass of pilgrims to the lake every night. The media also get interested in this event and various brands use Om to promote their products. The people are inspired by Om’s feats and decide to hold their breath along with him as a movement. Om’s discussion with his friend leads him to believe that since his nature is to hold breath, he should breathe once in order to participate in the peoples’ movement(A Saans a ra andolan). He dies underwater when he tries to breathe and his dead body floats up.

Jagdish comes to visit Gayatri after a long time and finds that she has given birth to a child(presumably a result of their lovemaking). He pleads for forgiveness and Gayatri finally obliges. In the end they contemplate suicide by taking potassium cyanide(KCN) and plan to let the world know about its taste. Jagdish takes it first and instructs Gayatri to take down the taste of KCN, since he is weak at spelling. He utters “Gobar”(implying that KCN tastes like cow dung)  before dying. Gayatri changes her mind, abandons the suicide plan and returns home in a bike.

Though the above summary seems logical and linear, the actual treatment is far from it. Many parts of the plot come in reverse and juxtaposed sequences with respect to time. For instance the event of Om arriving at Pushkar is shown before he meets Lotamal in his land. Also the sequence of Lalaji coming to console Gayatri after his father’s death is shown after the sequence of him being shot dead during the frog-hunt. However, such non-linearity is perhaps the least of befuddling elements in the movie.

As mentioned before, the film does not have a collective meaning, a fact that aligns it with the principles of absurdism (human beings’ inability to comprehend an absolute meaning in the universe). However, characteristics or symbolisms can be discerned if we look at the movie in parts. Indeed, the film contains a myriad of varying themes and traits referenced at multiple junctures in the narrative/anti-narrative.

My attempt would be to enumerate some such key elements of this unique film:

  • Examples of non sequitur logic(e.g: all a’s are b’s) are strewn throughout the movie. One example that comes to my mind is towards the beginning, when Gayatri asks Om, “Tujhe kaise pata barish hone wali hai ?”(How do you know it is going to rain?) and Om replies “Tu Kangi jo kar rahi hai”(Because you are combing your hair. Many of the dialogs in the film follow this pattern. Besides this, many of the dialogs are deliberately incoherent and incongruous to produce a nonsensical effect.
  • Another central theme of the movie is the effortless intertwining of science, religion and superstition in Indian life. When Gayatri asks, “Kya koi ladki ladke ke bina Everest chad sakti hai?”(Can any woman climb the Everest without the help of a man?); Jagdish replies, “Parvati ji Chadi Thi”(Godess Parvati did). Again when Gayatri says, “Suna hai chand pe nani ka post khali hai”(I’ve heard that the post of the old lady on moon is vacant), Jagdish in turn asks, “Tum kat leti ho?”(Can you sew?) . The chand ki nani is referenced again on the day when man lands on the moon. Amidst the celebration on the terrace, we see a woman with white hair smiling just when the time of the moon landing arrives.These aspects may seem to be abstract amalgamations, however if we think how science, religion and superstition serve as driving factors for an average Indian citizen, this treatment assumes a very significant relevance.
  •  Gayatri’s part in the movie is perhaps the only linear aspect in the whole film and integrity can be found between the fragments of the narrative relating to her. This is perhaps because views on women’s liberation come through her. She considers herself equal to men and sits in the men’s section of movie theaters, rides a bicycle etc to prove it. In one sequence, she asks Jagdish to make love to her. When Jagdish fumbles with the strings of his underwear, it is Gayatri who brings the scissors and cuts the string. Their lovemaking in portrayed through a humorous metaphor. We see Babuji calling out Gayatri’s name and cycling to and fro in front of their house. Here Babuji is physically not present, rather is a symbolism for the patriarchal inhibition, seemingly for protecting a woman’s virtue before marriage. Babuji collapsing with the cycle signifies the event of Gayatri’s capsizing this inhibition.
  • The scenario of a woman asking for sex rather than succumbing to a man’s desire was seldom seen in the cinema of that time. This is one of the aspects among others, which illustrates that Kamal Swaroop’s masterpiece was much ahead of its times. The director has maintained an egalitarian outlook throughout the movie. Thus, Gayatri gives birth to a child without marriage and raises her alone. Towards the end Jagdish takes Gayatri along to the edge of a cliff in the attempt to commit suicide by tasting KCN. He mentions about udhna or flying together. However, we witness, only Jagdish taking KCN and dying. Gayatri changes her mind and returns on a scooter, as a strong departure from Bollywood love stories depicting the hero and heroine dying together. Here the flying becomes a double ended metaphor, one for suicide and the other for Gayatri’s liberation.
  • The sequences involving Om comprise of the most bizarre and abstract imagery in the whole film, be it the dream sequence hinting at his fear of examination (biology), or the ‘Rana Tigrina‘ song. Om’s fetish with frogs is evident from the sequence of this song ending with Om supposedly gripping the picture of an attractive woman and the sequence where a dead frog is referred to as ‘ladki ki laash’(Corpse of a lady). This could be a subtle hint towards zoophile tendencies. Om’s comment about his growing nose obstructing his view(“Jab bhi mai padta hun, naak akshar kha jaate hai”) and the fact of his nose bleeding, is an indicator of the fact that Om has grown up, reached an adolescent age. Phoolkumari puts her black glasses on his eyes, which she claims would enable him to read properly.

These simplistic scenarios in my opinion represent Om’s adolescent craving and the sexual undercurrents between Phool and Om. Interestingly, these are not represented through Freudian symbolisms, which is generally a favorite of filmmakers. The director rather conjures up an assemblage of unique metaphors for this and many other instances in the movie.

  • The Pushkar lake, that plays a significant part in the movie is a place of immense religious importance for the Hindus. In the texts of Padmapurana, it has been described as the place where Brahma had once held a jagna. Consequently this is the only place to have a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma. It is believed that people who take a dip in the Pushkar during the time of Karthik Shukra Paksha(Full Moon), supposed to be the time of the year corresponding with Brahma’s jagna, wash away their sins and open the gates of heaven in their afterlives. The opening of the Pushkar festival is declared through the statement “Swarg dharti par utar chuka hai”(The heavens have descended to earth) delivered in an airlines announcement-like tone. It is during this time that Om’s magical feat in the Pushkar is put up as a moneymaking prospect for the local Brahmin. The reference of the ‘Promise’ toothpaste(a brand which was available back then) stresses the use of religious platforms for advertising. The use of God as a brand is equally relevant in our times.
  •  Songs have been an integral part of any Indian movie, since inception. The avant-garde songs of ‘Om Dar Ba Dar’ play a very important part in this avant-garde movie as well. The song played on radio is an attempt towards nonsense verse. The song ‘Meri Jaan AAA’ is partly in English, illustrating the English speaking tendencies of the youth and is  a reflection of urban men’s outlook toward women in the then India. ‘Rana Tigrina’ depicts the adolescence of Om and his fascination with frogs.  The lyrics by Kuku and the music by Rajat Dholakia are very appropriate.

One could go on an on writing about this movie; there is so much to write and so much yet to discover. Every time I watch this movie, I find an unexplored nook, a new aspect which I had previously overlooked. Even after all these years, Kamalji gets emails, messages and posts in facebook(he is active in facebook, by the way) from fans of this movie and he is very earnest in replying back to them and discussing about his movie. I was fortunate to have interacted with him on facebook and resolved various doubts about ‘Om Dar Ba Dar’. There are a considerable number of people, who want this movie to be remastered and released with English subtitles. However, when I mentioned this to Kamalji, his reply was, “Too late. I am too tired by this film. I like to move on.” However, the ardent lovers of the film will keep on expecting.

We have had very few examples of feature length avant-garde films in the arena of world cinema. The prominent ones among them were made mostly by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Even considering those, ‘Om Dar Ba Dar’ is unique and Indian to the core. Kamalji does not like to call it an avant-garde film however. In his opinion, “Avant-garde is a technical term applied to a different movement. In Om Dar Ba Dar, I was reacting to the parallel cinema of that time.” He acknowledges Surrealist and Dadaist influences in it. It is certain that if someday, an Indian film theory is developed; this cult classic will receive a special mention as a pioneer in Indian avant-garde, a very deserving accolade for this film and for its creator.

Riddhiman Basu is a Senior Software Engineer at Accenture. He lives in Calcutta.

Courtesy madaboutmoviez

Gangs of Wasseypur: This world is alien for many who do not know their own Wasseypur

BY Ravish K. Chaudhary


Anurag’s “Gangs of Wasseypur” is a rapture, rapture in our narrative of Gangsters. It does not narrate a tale of two giants in conflict with each other. It tells us the blood soaked story of a society that exists (within our own cities/towns) in accordance with its own rules. It captures the very logic of the world that runs parallel, however uncovered within the official history and sociology of our society. The world that silently appears in our public sphere mutely interacts with our everydayness, silently but firmly assert its presence and dissolves in what appears mundane. The existentiality of its habitants doesn’t lie in its locality but in the psyche that stretches from Sultana Daku to faizal Khan. Narrated in the background of murky coal business, sprawling from British era to early nineties, the story tells us the saga of at least three generations for whom life is defined by nothing but befuddling lasciviousness accosted by Vengeance.  The Sprawling Picaresque curated with series of discrete frames captures the existentiality of a referential world where the civil life of metropolis, laden with fictions of democratic and humane values, is as imaginary as the giggly soap of “Saas bhi Kabhi Bahu…” kind.

GWP is a trip to our innerness, a journey to some corner of our own cities, to a world that exists where most of us have grown up, are living and shall die. This is not a journey to a garrison where all influential Mafia’s sitting in safe heavens decides the fate of others. Wasseypur has a different logic, live-kill-live. Blood is in the phenomena in Wassypur and automatic (gun) is inspiration. The generations of sultana daku and Sahid khan are in consistent conflict with each other to snatch a little  wheat, coal, sand, scrap, fish (immaterial what the goods is) lying at the margins of “the Big” Imperial British, its successors TATA, BRILA, Thapars and the new satrap of this black heritage Ramadhir Singh. The inhabitants of wasseypur are not Dons, they do not have militia, they have their kith and kin that are revered by common glories and are inflicted by common inspiration of retribution. The Pathans, The Qureshies in the nineties are not killing each much for resources lying beneath and in around wasseypur, but for the sake of the imagined dominance that traditionally Qureshies have inherited and the Pathans lacked. Though the story is presented as the revenge saga of Sardar khan against Ramadhir Singh (this is the training we have to understand a hindi movie), Anurag’s narration goes beyond. Each frame in the movie reveals an aspect of the society that has only two operate variables: Blood and Flesh. Sardar Khan, and so many others, through his life oscillate between these two instincts. In Wasseypur, Anurag depicts, instincts are rules. The justification of these rules appears from imagined narrative of dominance that Qureshies and Pathans share in a hierarchical manner. At the confluence of these two instincts, so many wasseypurs in so many of our towns/cities exists. At the confluence of these two instincts, natives of wasseypur, eat, drink, work, love, marry, give birth and kill. Anurag’s GOW is a narration of the intertwined instincts that gives the society called wasseypur an existence that is alean to the imagination of ‘Shining’ or “Incredible” Indians. It asserts a Beingness to its natives distinct from what the suave citizen of metropolis of post-liberalisation inheres.

The saga drenched in blood and written on the canvas of coal is a departure from our traditional understanding of violence as an individualistic phenomenon in hindi movies. Individualistic violence is replaced here by the psyche that a society in its totality carries. GOW leads us to a condition where Sardar Khan, ramadhir Singh, the Qureshies, the pathans, coal, sand, fish and all that remains faints in the background. What persists is a penetrating lustful glance of hunters searching for Blood and Flesh. And that’s the rule of life in so many Wasseypurs.

Note: One must add, this world is alien for many who do not know their own Wasseypur.

(Posters’s courtesy- Gangs Of Wasseypur: Fan Posters)

Ravish is an engineering graduate and master in Sanskrith from  JNU. He briefly pursued philosophy at JNU, and is  now an engineering personnel with the ONGC, Mehasana. He has also been involved in the cultural politics.

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