Kangana Ranaut on the Class System in Bollywood | Anupama Chopra | Film Companion
Bit by bit the splintered day has ended,
The night is all in shreds,
To each of us is given just as much
As we can carry.
The spattering, singing drops of rain
Hold poison and immortality too.
My eyes laugh, my heart rains tears,
Such is the monsoon I’ve been granted.
Whenever I’ve strained to know myself
I’ve heard a chuckle,
As if someone within me spoke and said,
In this game you’ll be fooled again.
What does defeat mean, or waiting,
When an endless trek is my allotted fate?
When my heart was gifted to me, as companion,
As unrest walked alongside.
Personally for me, Kaul’s Siddheshwari (1989) is quite an emblematic film of दुःख का प्रकार ! And when I first saw it immediately after it was made, I felt peculiar layers of pain embedded within its state of being. As an artist, Kaul stuck to his own nature, own स्वभाव in his cinematography, its practice. He risked for expressing himself, for अमिथ्या अभिव्यक्ति || दुःख ||
Muktibodh wrote, “Now, all the risks of expression will have to be undertaken…”
The following day, I was at Chitrakoot talking to Kaul about Siddheshwari and how deep down in my heart I was feeling pain in its various forms, perhaps my own middle-class pain of being. Barely any other film had touched me with such earthly, unearthly feeling. And the feeling I thought had emerged from the way Kaul had filled the ‘movement’ with ‘time’, e.g. the mental and physical agony experienced by young Siddheshwari and the feeling of pain being evoked through fleeting moments while she was washing kitchen utensils, creating peculiar metal sounds. Such abstract (and yet palpable) feeling perhaps only music could invoke though it is very different for cinematography to attain the temporality of music (संगीत). “But, as I know through your cinematography, you have been striving to offer it a certain musical experience,” I told Kaul that afternoon. || दुःख ||
And I thought my words had made him happy and joyous. However, after listening to my दुःख का प्रकार thoughts with regard to the film Siddheshwari, Kaul had kept quietly staring at me for a few seconds. Those were amazing moments at Chitrakoot as the Sun threw its softened oblique evening rays from a window. But much later someone gave me a copy of Udayan Vajpeyi’s Hindi book, Abhed Akash: Mani Kaul se Udayan Vajpeyi ki Baatcheet (Undivided Space: Udayan Vajpeyi’s Conversation with Mani Kaul, Madhya Pradesh Film Development Corporation, Bhopal, 1994), and I was sweetly surprised to see Mani Kaul referring to my दुःख का प्रकार response to Siddheshwari in this book. Vajpeyi’s question had referred to Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) and the sense of polyphony that we find in his literary works, and the polyphony that we see in Kaul’s cinematography. || दुःख ||Mani Kaul: “The question is about how you experience polyphony. Once my friend Amrit Gangar told me about Siddheshwari and the presence of various forms of pain, in it दुःख का प्रकार, दुःख का प्रकार !, like the forms of the (raga) Sarang in our music.” There are several संसार in a single संसार, Kaul told Vajpeyi among several other interesting things. The poet Muktibodh also refers to the system of created things, the world or the संसार . || दुःख ||
—AMRIT GANGAR, Mani Kaul: DU: KH ke Prakar
दुःख का प्रकार - types of pain/sorrow
स्वभाव - nature
|| दुःख || - pain/sorrow
अमिथ्या अभिव्यक्ति - not untrue expression of self ?
संसार - world
I honestly believe Saeed Akhtar Mirza is a master at representing the urbanscape through the vision and assessments of his lead characters, especially when it comes to those characters who hold historically marginalized identities. Thee of his early and most well known films Arvind Desai ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1978), Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai? (1980), and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989) all take place in Mumbai (or Bombay as all these films were before the 1995 Shiv Sena led name change) and have their respective titular characters occupying various positions in society.
Arvind Desai is a straggling & disaffected upper-class, upper-caste Hindu, young businessman from a well-to-do family who spends a lot of time loitering the city in a nice car (Mirza’s trademark passing car shots of Bombay are quite amazing and becomes a repeated motif in many of his films) as he visits various people who occupy different places in the city due to their identities. For example, Alice, his Christian secretary, whose family he visits often, lives in a middle-class household and neighborhood which contrasts vastly with his own posh neighborhood and background. They often go on dates in nice restaurants in the very developed part of the city (Alice herself is a “loiterer”). He also visits his married sister who lives in a very polished yet lonely flat. He’s friends with a Marxist professor who is renting a modest room near the university he works at and the train is also very close to it. We are also shown the night route to even poorer neighborhoods where he visits a sex worker. Akhtar shows us the city’s street performers, the laborers, the working class, the middle class, the neighborhood divisions between different religious groups, the elite world of Bombay, etc. all through the window shield of Arvind’s car which serves as a reminder that his gaze and our own are outsiders.
On the other hand Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai? (1980) & and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989) have us deep within the personal cities that the respective characters live in. Albert Pinto I would say is a lower-middle class Christian mechanic who, if Arvind was comfortably indifferent, is imbued with a rage that is the culmination of belonging to the oppressed working-class and having an identity that is devalued in an increasingly tepid environment. Albert also internalizes the classism prevalent in a capitalist society which leads him to alienate himself from his fellow workers down to his own neighbors and friends. His girlfriend Stella also works at an office and he visits often her somewhat better-off family and frequently gives her rides where we really see the urbanscape as being a deeply personal part of the lives of the characters, rather than something to gaze at. Akhtar also provides us with the sociopolitical happenings of the city through posters on walls to strikes being shown as encompassing the city until Albert himself can’t ignore or pretend to not understand their legitimacy.
In Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro, we extend from class tensions to the include fears and troubles of marginalized groups. Salim is another young man who is Muslim and belongs to a lower-class family. Here the city and the shots Akhtar takes, show the segregation and increasing marginalization of Muslims in Bombay as communal conflict is promoted by the rise of right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in such a diverse city. Salim is a “small-time goonda” who spends his days with family, hangs out wih his similar friends, and takes up various jobs. Akhtar showcases the Muslim neighborhoods lively and bustling with the day-to-day grind of the people in it with Salim being the guiding figure who weaves in and out of the crowds and neighborhoods. Akhtar completely fleshes out the various individuals Salim is acquainted with and in turn turns this part of the city into something that doesn’t fall into the 2-dimensional, stereotypical, and villainizing portrayals of Muslims in Bombay in popular media at the time (and even now), in fact I think I read this was his response to Bollywood’s portrayal of the Muslim villain vs. the righteous Hindu man. We see how oppressive the city has become for the lower-class Muslims in these neighborhood as every street has police offers on guard and poverty is inescapable, which is contrasted with the “other” Mumbai that is polished, clean, gentrified, and which accepts only certain identities.
(Tl;dr - Saeed Akhtar Mirza has provided truly some of the most defining work on exploring the identities of people in India who have been historically marginalized members of society through narratives that do not cheapen or simplify their experiences and the attention he pays to the city as a silent narrator of those experiences are amazing)
Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1979)
Looking at the sequence again, I would like to draw a number of other inferences. The camera’s gaze establishes Charu herself as the beautiful object of our loving connoisseurship and concern, while her own gaze is turned away to the life of the street which, like her husband, does not see her. But what overwhelms the scene and constructs itself as a site of alienation, I would suggest, is the elaborately furnished set of rooms through which she moves, and towards which the camera is also turned. The detail and richness of the wallpaper, the small statues lining the verandah, the room’s furnishings, the book bindings, the shutters, constitute the physical register of an interior which is not, and can never coincide with, an interiority. Ray’s deliberate and sumptuous use of space and furniture here to encode the bourgeois way of life in the mid-nineteenth century, constructing the house, like Charu herself, as something that Bhupati owns but does not care for, implicitly produces the domestic interior as a rich, substantial, but alienating setting for a subjectivity not yet fully understood. The scene’s irony lies in Charu’s dis-identification from the furniture (by the production of her own alert, inquisitive, ironic gaze) at the very same time as she is caught in the same frame with it. It is evident from her casual, idle fingering of objects in the room, her detached drifting from point to point within it, that this is not Charu’s own set of rooms. By contrast to its magnificence, Charu’s own sari is of the common handloom variety; unlike Bimala in Ghare Baire, she is not routinely clad in fine clothes
—Supriya Chaudhuri | Space, Interiority and Affect in Charulata and Ghare Baire
mizoguchi yeah they just kind of recently released it subbed n restored i think? and technically its rlly amazing the combination of traditional modes of marathi folk theatre (tamasha , lavani etc) and ofc the direction n i think it was the best way to interpret the play into film but i really understand the criticism of the anti-dalit rhetoric seeped into it too (which is wht we should expect bc mani kaul is attached to this film who is the probably the biggest advocate of the savarna as an aesthetic smh )
—Do come and taste slavery!