Years ago I’ve read one of Girish Karnad’s play titled ‘Naga-Mandala’ based on a mythical Indian folk-tale that absolutely resembles with the plot of Mani Kaul’s this Indian New Wave alternative cinema classic. And besides that Amol Palekar’s retake of the same film ‘Paheli’ made with two budding stars of Hindi cinema made the plot and story of the film almost revealing factor. So the mysterious and intriguing plot of this wonderful folk-tale is not something that is new for me. What is more unique is not the story, plot but the cinematic form.
This is my first Mani Kaul film and I must say the man created unusually unique and experimental form to the Indian cinema that leaves all the baggage of traditional grammar of filmmaking. From minimalist approach to unusual narration, detached characters use of camera (flat, still and freeze frames) the ethnic textures of Rajasthani colors (especially red and white) on screen, everything here is more of a personal statement than a normal cinema. The film is too original and avant garde in form for Indian cinema but for normal cinema viewers it’s too early and too difficult to appreciate and comprehend his art in a single viewing. However I found many stylistic resemblance of his film form with two French Masters Jean Luc Godard in exploiting many experimental stylistic devices and Robert Bresson for cent percent minimalist tone and using his actors just as detached non actors in the film. The film won him a National award for best direction. Eager to watch his other gems.