Films have always been a very, very important part of my life. As a child, I was obsessed with story books, choosing to spend most of my time reading them. I even wrote my own stories, so fascinated was I with the concept of storytelling. As I grew older, that love of books graduated into a love for films, or movies (I’m not one of those snobs who refuses to call them movies). The internet gave me access to a whole entire world of films, and I tried to spend as much time as I could watching them. That habit has never quite left me, and I must say I have made full use of this lockdown discovering new films and revisiting old favourites.
So, I thought, since I have a platform here, why not recommend a few things I liked watching, and hopefully, you’ll like them too. If you can bear with me rambling about films, that is. Maybe I’ll make this a series- call it something like Film Corner. You know, like Corner Network. Get it? I’ll show myself out.
The first film I’d like to talk about in this (potential) series of recommendations is one I first watched quite by accident, actually. I had gone shopping with my aunt to get her husband (also a film buff) a gift. We found ourselves in the DVD (yes, this is a while ago) aisle, and my aunt picked out this old Hindi movie (ew, I know right?). It was called “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro”, directed by Kundan Shah, and starring Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani, and I’ll be honest- the poster looked hilarious to my twelve-year-old self.
You know how gifts are supposed to be wrapped, right? Especially those meant for other people? Anyway, I ended up watching the film that night. (Did I mention that I was obsessed with films at this point). Watching Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was actually quite a significant moment in my film-watching-life, because it introduced me to a whole new genre-Black Comedy. It was simply magic to me. I had never seen anything like it before.
But enough about me. You should know a bit about the movie, too. Let me channel my inner film student.
In the decades of the ‘50s and the ‘60s, Indian cinema, particularly Hindi cinema was not what you would call naturalistic. It was usually escapist, ‘popcorn’ fare, with plenty of songs and plenty of dancing. Fantastic stories, which could be thought of as built to divert attention away from the various societal problems plaguing the country.
At the same time, as if as a rejection of this style of filmmaking came Parallel cinema which had one primary goal: to feel ‘real’ and natural and to depict India, its people and the society as it really was instead of glossing over everything with the rose-tinted glasses attitude of mainstream cinema. Master filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen were at the forefront of this movement, though they primarily made Bengali films, and by the time the ‘80s rolled around, this movement had also well and truly reached Hindi cinema. This was the time of filmmakers like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani, among others, who proudly carried forward the Parallel tradition as they made films depicting societal realities, harsh as they may be.
Fresh faces at the time like Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil and Om Puri, among others, first made their name acting in parallel cinema before they became popular in the mass mainstream.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, I realised much later, was unlike most of the Parallel cinema from the ‘80s in that it was a comedy, a satire as opposed to being of a dramatic nature. However, despite its jokes, the film had to be taken seriously because it was satirizing something very rampant in society: corruption, and how the system seems to be ‘rigged’ towards those in power while the common man gets crushed. Despite the decades having passed, this film is still very relevant and prescient, and demands to be watched, if you haven’t already. It’s also rip-roaringly hilarious, which is always an added bonus.
Ahan Sen is a Second Year student of Mass Communication at Symbiosis University, Pune. He is a self described film buff and also loves football. "I'm Bengali - it comes with the territory", he says.
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