This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
seemingly distinct categories of 'arthouse' and 'commercial cinema' are collapsing. In the '80s, when the chasm between these two categories was at its zenith, socially meaningful cinema flourished. Yet apart from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, a scathing satire on the embedded web of corruption, it is hard to recall a film from that period that has survived into mainstream consciousness today. This was after an extraordinary spell in the '70s, when fuelled by the masterly screenplays of Salim-Javed, films like Deewaar made such categories redundant. Over the last year, a number of films have challenged those notions, rejecting the ghettoisation of 'arthouse' cinema in order to effect change from within the mainstream. Films such as Anurag Kashyap's Dev D, Dibakar Banerjee's Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and, now, Vishal Bhardwaj's Kaminey have unlocked the potential within popular idioms of Hindi cinema. Contemporary interpretation of the proverbial tale of twin brothers or the story of Devdas for these filmmakers allows easy translatability, giving them a mainstream platform while leaving room for avant-garde expression. Thus, subversion of popular idioms becomes the conduit to weave tales of modern India. One of the ways in which this subversion is achieved is by privileging disjunctions over continuity. In the original Devdas, for example, his death serves the purpose of preservation of the patriarchal order. However, the subaltern narrative of society's suppression of women in Devdas is given agency in Anurag Kashyap's Dev D. Kashyap's target is the hypocrisy of patriarchal structures that finds itself in crisis when faced with a more assertive female sexuality. Thus, the lead protagonist played by Abhay Deol encourages sexual liberalism in Paro, but is unable to respond adequately when it threatens to outgrow patriarchal consent. Chanda's father, on the other hand, commits suicide when shown a mirror to his participation in society's collective lust which invokes morality while it receives gratification. In an iconic film such as Ram aur Shyam, the twin brothers are united in pursuit of a common goalÂ— the return to rightful inheritance and restoration of a slightly readjusted feudal order. In Kaminey, for the most part, they engage in a clash of competing self-interests Â— it seems inevitable that one's happiness must come at the cost of the other. In earlier versions, the filial bond was sacrosanct, yet Kaminey repeatedly violates this maxim to portray a society getting rapidly atomised. Fittingly, Bhardwaj sets his tale in the brutally competitive world of Dharavi. Another common thread in these films is the dark, dystopian urban vision, revolving around themes of alienation. The city does not exist as a singular entity Â— it inhabits diverse worlds, the distance between those is immeasurably vast. This is only too evident in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, a film almost entirely set in the capital that steers clear of Delhi's dominant representation in cinema. Instead, Banerjee focuses his lens on the claustrophobia of growing up in a west Delhi ghetto, the narrative of people excluded from centres of power. Similarly, the ubiquitous pictures of Marine Drive and Bandra that populate films set in Mumbai are largely absent from Kaminey. The decade-long reign of the banners of Yash Chopra and Karan Johar, beginning with DDLJ in 1995, came at a moment when the middle classes were grappling with identity Â— the new wealth could not make them overcome a lingering unease with modernity. Their films celebrated this fraught coexistence, by effortlessly merging regressive values with consumer culture. In Oye Lucky, the protagonist is a victim of both Â— he seeks to firmly abandon the former, while wanting to conquer the latter. Oye Lucky replicates some aspects of the loud, baroque film with Punjabi characters, only for it to serve as a form of critique. Lucky is the antithesis of the archetype Punjabi lead in, for example, Karan Johar's films. He never completely belongs in a consumerist milieu while the 'native culture' so beloved of their films is, for him, a prison that he must escape. Another remarkable aspect is the astute skill with which these filmmakers have incorporated contemporary events, without appearing contrived or cynical. From the right-wing politics of Raj Thackeray's MNS to the DPS MMS scandal, their interpretation has taken the form of progressive interventions.
opening up new horizons in which we can reimagine the popular Hindi film. .Vishal Bhardwaj. Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap are at the forefront of a new wave of filmmakers reshaping popular Hindi cinema. Contributing to constructive change from within mainstream cinema. they have taken up old chestnuts and infused them with radical energy. Their films have served as expressions of dissent in a cinematic culture veering towards lazy self-congratulation. merging tribute with critique.