Indian Cinema

The Essential Mystery: The Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema by John W. Hood

The Essential Mystery: Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema is a thoughtful, appreciative, analytical, and comprehensive overview of the influential filmmakers that have defined, shaped, and elevated the status of Indian art cinema. By correlating the filmmakers’ personal experiences with the common themes and individual styles presented through their respective cinema, Hood illustrates the diversity,… read more »

Ankur, 1974

Ankur opens to a surreal shot of a modern day feudal village in rural India, as an attractive young peasant woman named Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi) participates in a ritual pilgrimage to the shrine of the mother goddess bearing offerings for the tribal ceremony in the hopes that the goddess will answer her prayers to have… read more »

Uttara, 2000

Ostensibly an allegorical, cautionary tale on religious fundamentalism, Uttara is also a bracing and incisive examination of the provincialism, anachronism, moral and social quandary, and inherent contradictions that continue to shape contemporary Indian culture. Composed of seemingly unrelated narrative threads – a pair of bored, train crossing signal operators, Nemal (Tapas Pal) and Balaram (Shankar… read more »

Tahader Katha, 1992

A disoriented, lumbering man named Shibnath (Mithun Chakraborty), recently released after an eleven-year incarceration (which he served, in part, at the prison asylum) for the death of a British officer during the country’s anti-colonialist resistance movement, is escorted on a train ride home by a former comrade – now a successful businessman and aspiring politician… read more »

Shadow Kill, 2002

Exploring similar human rights issues as Nagisa Oshima’s Death By Hanging on the sociopolitical framework that lies beneath the inequitable administration of justice and capital punishment, Shadow Kill is told from the perspective, not of the condemned but of the reluctant executioner, an aging, guilt-ridden hangman named Kaliyappan. Set in colonial-era state of Travancore in… read more »

Reason, Debate and a Story, 1974

A frail, elderly villager seeking shelter from the burning sun inside a makeshift hut stares inexpressively into the camera as a trio of faceless, black-cladded apparitions perform a vibrant, ritualistic dance before him, perhaps in anticipation of the old man’s inevitable death. The dreamlike, surreal episode seemingly provides an allegorical – and intrinsically operatic –… read more »

A River Called Titas, 1973

A River Called Titas opens to the eerily desolate yet tranquil sight of a receded river basin as the expressive voice of a traditional folk singer (Dheeraj Uddin Fakir) serenades the mighty Titas River in East Bengal with a soulful ode on the river’s inconstant ebb and flow that manifests its alternately fickle grace, mercy,… read more »

Subarnarekha, 1965

Ritwik Ghatak’s films are deeply haunted by the specter of the Partition of Bengal in 1947, and this sense of dislocation and self-inflicted human tragedy created by artificially imposed social division casts a pervasive sentiment of despair, instability, and perpetual exile through all the rended families and uprooted ancestral communities of Subarnarekha. Opening to the… read more »

The Cloud-Capped Star, 1960

In an impoverished refugee village in Calcutta, an attractive and industrious young woman, Nita (Supriya Choudhury), breaks a sandal while passing through the market square, and without complaining, continues barefoot on the graveled street, unable to buy a replacement pair of sandals for the walk home. Patently aware that Nita has received her monthly salary,… read more »

The Citizen, 1952

The opening image of Ritwik Ghatak’s first feature film, The Citizen, consists of a steady motion, acute angle dolly shot of mature trees (a symbolic image that is similarly implemented in the introductory sequence of The Cloud-Capped Star) lining an anonymous street, a juxtaposition of transience and permanence that serves as a seeming reflection of… read more »