Kolkata, Nov 16 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS) The ongoing Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) is paying a tribute to Mani Kaul (1942-2011) this year through screening of his path-breaking film Uski Roti (1970).
Based on a story by Mohan Rakesh, Uski Roti explores the story of Balo, the marginalized wife of Sucha Singh, a bus driver who comes to take his meal from her who waits at the bus stop every night to hand it over.
It is a slow-paced film that wanders lazily across the roads to reach Balo waiting for her husband just to give him his meal packet.
Mentored under the guidance of Ritwik Ghatak at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and strongly inspired by Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket, Kaul is immortalized by his absolutely radical approach to cinema as a language of aesthetics, story-telling, sound, visuals and music.
Siddheshwari (1989), based on the life of renowned thumri singer Siddheshwari Devi is one of the most unusual films to have been produced by the Films Division. Kaul rejects two holy tenets of documentary – linearity and exposition – and focuses on how the singer was immersed in classical music.
Mani Kaul’s films offer significant examples of nonlinear sound narratives in Indian cinema. Nazar has no live sounds. But it has long ambiences of sounds that evoke the idea of simultaneity of melody.
Kaul’s reputation as a great teacher: in the dhrupad form of Hindustani classical music is not known by all. But his stints at the FTII though are underscored by the quality of students he has produced in mainstream and alternative cinema. His dhrupad students too are qualified writers, poets and artists in their own right.
His films are living testimony of his experimentation that brooked no compromise.
Examples are – Uski Roti (1969), Ashad Ka Ek Din (1971) based on a play by Mohan Rakesh about the love between Kalidasa and Mallika, Duvidha (1973) based on a story by Vijayadan Detha, Sataha Se Uthta Admi (1980), based on the poetry of noted Hindi poet Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh and Maati Manas (1984) on the life and art of terracotta artisans. His last feature film was Naukar Ki Kameez, based on Vinod Kumar Shukla’s first published novel.
Siddheshwari, Nazar, Duvidha and Naukar Ki Kameez lend themselves to subtle but strong feminist readings.