Archive for the tag “Dhiraj kr. Nite”

Museumisation of the Proletarian Past: Dhiraj Kr Nite

The socialist vision of progress and woman’s emancipation compelled the women to become employees and join manly professions, KM points out. Later, the dual currency policy incited the woman to partake in the ‘love making’ activities with Western tourists in order to earn the strong currencies, raise income, and afford western consumption goods in the second market. ‘Like their sisters in the west, they would have burnt their bras, had these been in the shops’. The KM organisers are at their best to express the essence of their ‘eclectic’, patriarchal nationalist world view: the ‘glorious’ capitalist world-view is still subservient to ‘Kulak’ nationalism.

Communist Museum and Eclectic Views of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, Czech Republic

BY Dhiraj Kr Nite
The Velvet revolution in the erstwhile socialist countries in Eastern Europe and its follow-up heralded the end of an era what Hobsbawm described as the short twentieth century. Communist Museum grafted in Prague, the centre of the Velvet revolution, stands as a constant critique of that proletarian past which the revolution was opposed to. I preferred to take a look on ‘Communist’ Museum (KM) than National Museum during my short sojourn in the city of Kafka, Prague, on November 1-3, 2011. My curiosity included a desire to have a comparative understanding of this one with Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, andgenerally of the museumisation project of Velvet revolution.Prague KM hosts a really small number of artefacts and a decent series of wall-papers and television commentaries over its subject. The subjects range from events of four decades of communist ways to progress, and criticism and fight directed against that.

Marx  from the view of Velvet Revolution in Prague

Marx from the view of Velvet Revolution in Prague

We know that no museums speak on its-own, nor artefacts assembled therein. The two museums of my current discussion are the project expressing variants of democratic polity and their mode of functioning. Apparently, they have not burnt down those disagreeable artefacts; significantly, nor have they declined to have dialogue (which would have been tantamount to banishing) with them in toto. They have opted for disparaging, incarcerating, and sanitising a few elements of the past and present of those societies.This option originates from indomitable confidence, which the new polity finds within it in the current politico-economic conjuncture. At the same time, the strategy of Prague KM is to freeze and hallow communism and left trajectory of the life as a moment. It amounts to, needless to state out, overlooking and overtopping of the dynamism of left trajectory, and its characteristics ability of auto-criticism. After all, no incumbent polity, hitherto known, gave way to the fundamentally new regime in as ‘minimal’ hostile manner as the proletarian polity. Prague KM also enables the Velvet revolution to clean-up the memory, including statues, painting and other artefacts of the dislodged polity from the public space by confining them at one small place.
Prague KM is a project of transmission of ‘eclectic’, patriarchal,nationalist opinions over the time of communist polity, its objective, functioning, and offshoot. Its target audience includes both the future generation and sympathisers of the dislodged polity. At the entry to the museum, it promises to present the dream, the reality, and the nightmare of communist past. The organiser of museum tells us through the first commentary over Marx and Lenin that both of them were mediocre, maniac, megalomaniac, and traitor to their own nations.

Lenin from the view of Velvet Revolution in Prague

Lenin from the view of Velvet Revolution in Prague

Other commentaries lay down a story as follows. The ‘Stalinist’ polity was crass materialism. It denied any place for spiritual, emotional life. However, my cursory walk around the city makes me wonder how have the religious symbols remained intact Prague? KM regards socialism as a fanatic movement of science that was at its best in manufacturing of competitive war machinery. The USSR had glory of, besides the early testing of nuclear and hydrogen bombs, the first intercontinental ballistic missile that was capable of carrying nuclear warheads (1955-56). In contrast, its workshops resisted a meaningful division of labour, and laggard in technological sophistication (in the 1950s). Rather, the proletariat devised powerful ways to oversee every other terrains of social life.The obsolete Marxian doctrine of progress saddled the working people with undue responsibility of excellence and performance, and propaganda war against capitalism and the USA. The children were initiated in auto-didactic learning, burdened with educational task of becoming all-rounder, and made to become indoctrinated social species. The working persons were drawn to excel in sporting and theatrical activities in order to generate glory for the polity at the international arena. The polity patronised art and literary creativity, known as socialist realism. The latter propagated the emancipator feature of proletarian vanguardism. It stressed on the exploitative antisocial element in capitalism and the USA front. It taught the people to sense glory in unboundefficiency and has had little concern for the situation of real income. KM, of course, misses any reference to the actually improved ‘quality of life’ against any threat of its deterioration, which unbound workload caused to labouring people during the early industrial revolution.

Core viewsKey Point of Eclectic, Nationalist Critique; The Divinity did not Disappear under Communism

Prague KM points out that the communist fetishism with industrialism resulted in environment devastation. The unreasonable dozes of chemical and mechanical inputs left over the toxified soil, water and human body. This is an offshoot of the modern mode of resource use seen across the globe; we do not come across any such allusion to this point therein. Disdainfully, KM proclaims that the proletariat turned out privileged in these collectivised units of production.The old property owner-cum-producer, called Kulaks in village localities and had acquired property and natural sound reasoning through centuries of drudgery, were forced to join those production units. The socialist price formation laid down affordable nominal prices of items of consumption, which remained inadequately available on the shop shelf. The ‘second’ (black) market developed of these commodities, where the state patronised personalities and other individuals could access and afford them at competitive prices. The emphasis on self-sufficiency and autarky did not mean the absence of any test for ‘western’ consumer goods. The beneficiaries of the polity enjoyed it through gifts and their abroad visits. The KM presentation refrains from any overt mentioning of the currently placid bourgeois comment: ‘nationalisation, collectivisation or cooperatives bread inefficiency’. One may oops! We may also note circumvention of any concrete class-based depiction of entitlement question and emphasis on foul favouritism and cronies of the polity.Divinity did not disappear
The socialist vision of progress and woman’s emancipation compelled the women to become employees and join manly professions, KM points out. Later, the dual currency policy incited the woman to partake in the ‘love making’ activities with Western tourists in order to earn the strong currencies, raise income, and afford western consumption goods in the second market. ‘Like their sisters in the west, they would have burnt their bras, had these been in the shops’. The KM organisers are at their best to express the essence of their ‘eclectic’, patriarchal nationalist world view: the ‘glorious’ capitalist world-view is still subservient to ‘Kulak’ nationalism.

Recourse to a Love Making Industry for the Strong Currency and Enabling Income

Recourse to a Love Making Industry for the Strong Currency and Enabling Income

The Slogan (Title) of the Photograph is Telling

The Slogan (Title) of the Photograph is Telling

KM emphasises that the Velvet revolutionaries bore the brunt of totalitarian despotic communism, as it was. The latter gained legitimacy over the claims for vanquishing the Nazis and fascism. Despite the propaganda machine against the image of exploited and manoeuvred working-class in capitalist countries and the impending nuclear war from the USA, it cemented its domination through the ‘people militia’. The USSR’s tanks rolled over the unarmed people. In the league of 1968 Prague Spring, the velvet fighters have risked their life to stand for freedom of Czech humanity, and humanness and decency in general. We do not get any glimpse of the participatory nature of some of ‘celebrated’ socialist institutions, including the commune judiciary and factory council.

An Artistic View of Coming to a Fuller Life after the fall of Communist Polity

An Artistic View of Coming to a Fuller Life after the fall of Communist Polity

Artur Szarecki, a Polish PhD researcher at University of Warsaw, has shared his opinion with me on the downfall of socialist polity in Poland. To him, the grievance stemmed from inadequate availability of consumer items in the public cooperative shops to the people, whose working hours were humanly short and who enjoyed sufficient public time. They did not complain about public infrastructure. Secondly, the philosophy of end of dialectics, which was the foundation of one party system, degenerated into a moribund organ; yet, it was unable to fully oversee all shades of activities, such as the second market. The visionary person and beneficiary of the second market looked out for a right to elect leaders to rule and enabling necessary institutions. It means the velvet revolution is a twofold: the right to happily consume, and elect one’s own leaders to rule. These rights have also become the signpost of the People’s Left in our time. The future of this Left, this path of transition, appears bright. Notwithstanding this, Left thoughts have already refashioned itself by internalising some concerns, such as environment regeneration and integral humanism. We, the World Left, for a truly emancipatory and advancing society, are still striving to come up with an integral, organic answer to some of the questions posed in Prague KM, and practice that answer, if any, in our life. Our success on this front would ensure that Left is our immediate future. The World Left refuses to turn out as a museum!

Dhiraj k Nite

Dhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, University of Johannesburg,  Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi. You can contact him through   dhirajnite@gmail.com.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Parallel Cinema: A fraternal critique of Nehruvian socialism- Dhiraj K Nite

By Dhiraj K Nite

hrishikesh

Hrishikesh Da (1922-2006) was a cinematic craftsman known for pioneering a middle-path between the melodrama and extravagance of mainstream cinema, on the one hand, and, on the other, the shrieking realism of art cinema. He was the most successfulpractitioner of the product of this variously called middle cinema or parallel cinema in the Bollywood. The following commentary briefly surveys his cinematic expression with a view to question the conventional wisdom that parallel cinema was an expression of the Nehruvian socialist ethics on celluloid. It reveals the extent ofHrishiDa’s cinematic efforts as a fraternal critique of the claim made by such ethics, and his technical improvisation in achieving this on celluloid.

Nehruvian socialism, the popular assumption suggests, informed and inspired a variant of cinematic craft, called Parallel cinema. The latter chose the realsocial issue(opposed to melodramatic fantasy) and its socio-political context asa subject of its narrative; adopted a socialist perspective; and minimised crash commercialism in its presentation. Unlike the so-called art cinema, parallel cinema kept an eye open to the demand of Box office. Its cast, location and screenplay, therefore, charged higher costs.

 

The cinemagoer saw HrishiDa continuously developing this particular craft by directing and editing a large number of Hindi movies from the late 1950s and in the subsequent four decades. The prestigious Dada SahebPhalke Award, awarded to him in 1999, was the recognition of his mettle. The popular assumption about his endeavour does not help us understand how distinctive was HrishiDa as a practitioner of this craftsmanship? Nehruvian socialism inspired only certain content of his story. What about his cinematography, narrative style, screenplay, and other aspects of cinema production? He was after all not dependent on theNational Film Development Corporation. He looked out for producers, and took into account the box office. He worked with a specific principle and improvised a specific technique in doing so. What were these?

Narrative strategy

The story often unfolded in flash-back in his presentation. It was only a small element of his narrative strategy in his earliest directorial venture Anuradha (1960). Soon it was to become a hallmark of his craft. It marked a break from his contribution as an assistant to the production by directors,like Bimal Roy. He effectively harnessed the power of this technique in acclaimed movies, like Satyakam (1969: a righteous person), Anand (1970: a wholesome life taller than astronomical time), NamakHraam (1973: a phenomenological path of self-realisation), and Bemisal (1982: the significance of platonic love and inter-subjectivity). His presentation of story in flash-back generated curiosity between viewers. It did not have much emphasis on thrill at the cost of explanation offered for the main plot, and of an idealised resolution prescribed by the director for the problem which the plot concerned itself with. His details related to explanation and resolution, avoided all possibility of turning out preachy. These drew viewers to a secular logic of social development and human action. There, the divine intervention or pursuit did not have constitutive role to perform: which was contrary to the hallmark of commercial cinema. Hrishi Da was at his best in delivering this in movies, like Satyakam and NamakHraam. He lost this touch in his last directorial venture, Jhooth Bole KauwaKaate (1998). The latter appeared as a critique of the new love story of the defiant adolescenton celluloid. Here, Hrishi Da underscored the decision of two adult girl and boy to persuade their parents for the recognition of affectionate relationship between the couple. Here, no explanation was offered for such engaging behaviour of protagonists as opposed to those of defiant adolescents. Hence, viewers found the movie preachy and lacking details. What accounted for this slippage in his technique? Seemingly, the Bollywood saw a shift in favour of functionalism in the 1990s. The ageing Hrishi Da seems to have been a victim of it.

His narrative worked on wholesome comedy in family movies, like Bawarchi(1972), ChupkeChupke (1975) and GolMaal (1979).In his other movies the comedy was a subplot. These movies were acclaimed for noticeable absence of double-meaning dialogue. The latter has taken sway in many current comedy ventures.

Screenplay

His screenplay concerned itself with the main pursuit of Hrishi Da, i.e., explanation for and characterisation of protagonists in his movies. He was at par excellence in Anupama (1966) and Bemisal.The former movie depicted the meaning of life lived through by a reticent, traumatised girl in the midst of plenty. The statement was that pecuniary opulence does not amount to spiritual elevation. In the latter, the sources of vice and virtue in humankind were under his scanner. In his couple of early movies some houses, dwellings and most actors were the same. Locales were as per story and modest budget. Dialogue was sharp, focused, straightforward and Poetic. Lyrics received greater attention than the accompanying instrumental composition. Stories drove lyrics and songs. Therefore, listeners have not remembered songs of his particularly 60s’ movies. On top of everything, he eschewed from absorbing the new pulse of viewers for expensive scenic locale in the 90s, in his comedy venture Jhooth Bole…

Cinematography and film-editing

Cinematography is usually the shoddiest feature in Bollywood. Hrishi Da began his career as a cameraman in the 1940s. Unlike many of his colleagues, he relied on close-up shots, still and straight-angled camera. The former necessitated the fact that the director persuades actors to mould themselves in his frame. Hence, actors were able to exude emotion through facial contortion, voice modulation, and body gesture. He was remarkable in his effort. He worked with actors, like Dharmendra, Sharmila, Amitab, and AmolPalekar. All of them later became well known for their superlative talent. At the stage they joined in the venture of Hrishi Da, they were between the youngsters and bereft of stardom.Notably, Amitab performed some of his socially memorable roles in HrishiDa’s company. One can readily recall Anand, NamakHaraam, Abhiman (1973), Mili (1975), and Bemisal, where Amitab was shore off of his image of angry young man.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee was indisputably the ablest cinematic editor of his time. He performed this job in a large number of movies, including those of Bimal Roy from the 1950s. Here, he was succinct. Once again, his concern for explanation and characterisation defined his editing. His all filmfare awards recognised this particular skill, including for Do BighaZamin(1953: the everyday ways of resistance to depeasantisation and land enclosure) andMadumati(1959) and his greatest directorial venture Anand.

anupma

Ideological Bent

Let’s see how far Nehruvian socialist he was in his details and plot!The characters invariably belonged to the professional class in his narrative. His characters embodied the spirit of new, enterprising, advancing humankind. The latter were a social, public person. Their ideal was an attachment to social progress. Indeed, the latter defined national progress.Such ideal meant in daily life the ethics of social service, fraternal relationship between classes and gender, welfare of underprivileged, and a pleasant contented life for everyone. His movie Anuradha epitomised all of these. Seemingly, Hrishi Da lost this touch in his commercially successful venture Bemisal. Here, Amitab (Dr Sudhir Roy) committed murder of an honest nurse to save dignity of the family of his friend cum well-wisher. But, his image was extenuated from it, and the soul turned out pious without any remorse. Sudhir’s crime was bracketed, like melodramatic revenge committed upon an anti-social person. This was a singular preposterous lapse in his directorial venture. One can see it as his vulnerability to viewers’ appreciation for a hero in negative character on the celluloid in the 1970s on.

The resolution proposed in his movies was pre-eminently an individualist initiative of the protagonist. The character appeared as uniquely eccentric on this front in the movie Satyakam.NamakHraam was possibly an exception, where the source of change lied in social collectivity and ideological awareness. The latter was a schema in his work. Hence, one finds characters evolving, and this very process stands out as the main plot.

He was far from being any propagandist and apologist of Nehruvian socialism. He zeroed in on exposing the perpetuation of many of those problems, which the Nehruvian polity claimed to uproot. Viewers readily remember Anuradhafor the missing medical service in the countryside; Anupamafor bourgeois parental authoritarianism; Satyakamfor the persistence of rotten administrative and cultural life in the form of corruption and ostracization; NamakHraamfor the perpetuation of class exploitation and bourgeois chicanery. His protagonists were dialectical antithesis of those problems, and of the limitation of Nehruvian polity. His characters in Anand and Mili (1975) represented the extraordinary human spirit how to live a full life and radiate envious charm in the surrounding.In this sense, it is folly to reduce HrishikeshDa’s parallel cinema to the alter-ego of Nehruvian socialism. Nor the latter can help us appreciate the craft of parallel cinema and distinctiveness of HrishiDa’s craftsmanship in the very terrain. 

 Dhiraj k NiteDhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, an emerging film critic,  University of Johannesburg,  Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi.

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.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: