‘Pure image has no representational meaning associated with it.’
Call it disillusioned modern poetry on screen…or an intellectual food of thought nobody interested to consume (forget the digest)! One can register any other spontaneous numbers of adjectives as the mind pleases but this is something so unique and unusual cinema which is perhaps unparalleled to the history of Indian cinema. The greatness of any film lies in the kind of quality of attention and sensibilities it evokes while watching it, contrast to that Mani Kaul’s this film invokes intellectual stimulation and vibrations about perspectives of art and life. Just first ten minutes into the film and the poetic narrative angst and fragmentary images make you think hard about the disturbing pretentious reality of mundane world and absurdity of life; raising pertinent existential questions about scrutiny of self, world and time. Based on Gajanan Muktibodh’s book by the same title, the film is personal statements of several disillusioned characters portrayed in disunited voiceovers and narration. .
A poet named Ramesh is an artist far removed from reality, his friendship with Keshav helps him sort out his puzzling mental vibrations about art and life. The poet is seeking wayout redemption from his puzzling struggle between internal and external affairs juxtaposed between life (creation) and art (recreation). It’s difficult to elaborate plot any further because what you see requires lot of patience free from preconceived notions. Within a layered and scattered narrative the film portrays a very personal material consists of a surreal dream, a symbolic story of termite eating bird and discussed the theoretical and perspective aspects of poetry of an artist struggling introspection to recreate the spontaneous moment of idea (thought) transformed into fantasy. The duality of struggle in the mind lies between language and expression.
Kaul is heavily inspired from the cinema of Robert Bresson and followed his traditions in his cinema. Like him he strongly tried to avoid the forced or extended meanings into the image. Who will understand the significance about purity of image in today’s pretentious and consumerist advertising and voyeuristic television driven audience. Kaul avoided structural technicalities of conventional cinema. One may witness the experimental elements of French New wave cinema too in the form. Rather than conventional narrative, Kaul’s film is scattered narrative of fragmentary collage coiled up by disunited voiceover, poetry, stream of consciousness, surrealism, dream, symbolic story, literary criticism, political satire and confessional writings of an artist. That too portrayed with uneven, unadorned images captured with static camera shots using available natural light and non acting performers (using actors like Bressonian models). Though all unusual accomplishments, what is major drawback of Kaul’s cinema is his vehement and deliberate avoidance of human element. Bresson though made films with detached portrayals of his non acting characters, ultimately till the end of the film made them more than human in spirit (read ‘Saints’) in his cinema. Compared to that Kaul failed to uplift that element with his self absorbed world full of too personal expressions.
The maker of this avant garde and experimental Indian film died just few months ago; for a day or two the media and news headlines produced short obituaries proclaiming him as one of the most original and experimental filmmaker India ever produced. The big question is did the country care about him really when he was alive? The man had made a few films in his entire career and ran pillars to post finding finance to express his unparalleled ideas and cinematic expressions hard to avoid. What is terribly sad and unfortunate is that till day almost all of his films including gem like these remain unavailable to public. Even this pirated version which I managed to see after a long hunt is full of severe cuts and has near to ruin condition. We need Martin Scorsese to save our gems of Indian Film Archives as the man remastered the original prints of many Indian films near to ruin including Ghatak’’s ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Nam’.
Writing all this, I must confess that still I’m kindergarten kid to understand depth of this sort of cinema as it demands multiple views to comprehend fully…wish someday I’ll be able to understand it more better way!