All films will be introduced by Piyush Roy, a PhD student at Edinburgh University and an Indian film journalist, who will also lead a post-film discussion.
Sholay / Embers
Ramesh Sippy | India | 1975 | 190 minutes
Many Bollywood fans and critics, even today, recommend that if you have to see just one Hindi film in your life, then see Sholay. Deservedly considered the most perfect Hindi film ever made (for its balanced blending and serving of Sanskrit Poetics’ nine prescribed rasas or emotions suitable for dramatic achievement); so much so that some even unfairly insist that innovation in Hindi films almost ended post the establishment of Sholay’s successful ‘masala’ formula. The story of this ‘curry western’ revolves around a righteous Thakur’s (landlord) hiring and training of two daring outcasts to achieve a mission of personal vengeance against a dreaded dacoit. Sholay also is a celebration of Salman Rushdie’s oft quoted description of the Indian film format as an ‘epico-mythico-tragico-comico-super-sexy-high-masala-art form in which the unifying principle is a ‘techni-colour-storyline’.
Bimal Roy| India | 1958 | 180 minutes
A traveller takes shelter from a storm in a decrepit, deserted mansion where he sees a portrait of its late owner, a local raja (king/ruler). It triggers off memories of his past life when he was a foreman on the raja’s plantation and fell in love with a tribal woman, who the raja was lusting after. The ‘enfant terrible’ of Bengali avante-garde, Ritwik Ghatak penned its story, directed by the Bollywood Golden Era’s (1950s-60s) most feted filmmaker Bimal Roy. Madhumati’s haunting black and white spookiness, authentic tribal imagery, tingling atmospheric songs and supernatural twist in the end make it Indian cinema’s most pioneering and memorable experiments in the Gothic genre.
Khoya Khoya Chand / Lost Moon
Sudhir Mishra | India | 2007 | 130 minutes
An unhesitatingly insider tribute, modern Bollywood reflects on classic Bollywood, through a celluloid ode to its golden era (1950s-60s) in all its archaic lights, melodramatic sets, poetic songs, maharajah like stars, divas and classic automobiles. A glossy, neatly crafted, tale of ‘unfulfilled’ romance set against an era of cinema that its contemporary art house auteur director, Sudhir Mishra is himself overwhelmed by, the film tracks the story of a young starlet’s rise to diva hood with a liberal inclusion of gossip anecdotes from the lives of some of the 50s’ leading actresses fused into her on screen journey. But this isn’t Mishra’s 81/2 or Day for Night, it is his Aviator!
Ardh Satya / Half Truth
Govind Nihalani | India | 1982 | 130 minutes
Anant Welankar (Om Puri) is an ethically strait-laced Mumbai police officer who reluctantly joined the force in deference to the wishes of his father, a career policeman. On entering the system, he is exposed to corruption amongst his seniors blatantly turning a blind eye to the excesses of an ambitious local goon and political aspirant, Rama Shetty (Sadashiv Amrapurkar). Anant finds himself caught between police violence and bribery on one hand, and his desire to fulfil his duties to the letter on the other. The rage of the righteous in some of its most disturbing consequences is manifested in this intense, song less, psychological police drama of the 1980s that to date remains Indian art house cinema’s biggest commercial success, apart from setting off the career of one of its best known international actors, Om Puri.
Nishabd / Wordless, Hindi/English – 2007, 110 mts)
Ram Gopal Varma | India | 2007 | 110 minutes
Bollywood’s biggest star, Amitabh Bachchan, attempts one of his career’s most challengingly nuanced parts in this Indian Lolita tale that explores the doomed, ridiculous love of an aging patriarch with a rebellious teen. The backdrop of Kerala’s lush lonesome tea plantations, the temptations of its Monsoon abandon, further humanise and believably Indianise a strong, scandalous subject by making it alarmingly commonplace, and extremely possible. Critic Raja Sen notes: “The two lead characters are very well fleshed out and acted, and by the time the film ends, if you feel anger at the filmmaker for showing preference towards a protagonist or at not tying it all up more conventionally, that is a debatable triumph; you love the characters more than the story. Ram Gopal Varma has done it again. He’s surprised us with a touching, deep and visibly personal effort.”
Antaheen / The Endless Wait
Ram Ghopal Varma| India | 2009 | 120 minutes
A compassionate policeman, a romantic journalist, a reluctant economist, a disturbed industrialist, a retired homemaker with a secret – do make for an interesting cocktail of interactions and emotions. Now distant, now intimate, now real, now virtual – Antaheen revolves around these characters, unveiled as three couples – Indian independent cinema’s poster actor Rahul Bose and newcomer Radhika Apte, who bond over the Internet but can’t stand each other in real life; separated, middle-aged pair of celebrated Bengali actress-director Aparna Sen and Kalyan Ray still battling commitment blues and an elite high society couple, who have access to all the pleasures in the world except interpersonal communication. Melodiously melancholic and heart-warmingly shot, Antaheen (The Endless Wait) is a sensitive portrait of life in a metro (Kolkata) that fatefully connects its ‘lonely’ urban middle class protagonists, negotiating the highs of success at the cost of intimacies to tell a haunting tale of love, loss and longing. Its director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s debut film Anuranan (2007), was feted as the first movie to usher in the trend of ‘new age urban movies in Bengali cinema.’