Two Worlds – Marathi & Iranian Cinema

Posted: October 31, 2014 by moifightclub in cinema, Film Festival, Guest Post, Indie, Mumbai Film Festival
Tags: , , , ,

Mumbai Film Festival is over, but the hangover remains. And so here comes one more post. This is a guest post by Mohamed Thaver.


I recently saw ‘Killa’ (The Fort) at the MAMI film festival, a subtle, understated and beautifully woven coming-of-age narrative of an 11-year-old boy, who along with his mother, shifts to a Konkan town after his father’s death. ‘Coming of age’ movies – that seemed to be the flavor of the recently concluded MAMI film festival – by their very nature, demand a certain level of deft handling of the filmmaking craft, a nuanced, under the radar approach – one does not come of age with fanfare – bearing a ‘handle with care’ tag, as the object being worked with: childhood, is brittle indeed. Much to our delight, first time director Avinash Arun, understands that one exposure to an insensitive, over the top scene at that age, could result in a lifelong scar.

After watching the movie (more on it later) as I was walking back, I could almost visualize a certain recurring pattern develop in some good Marathi movies I had seen lately. A small joining the dots act, comprising of drawing mental lines from Shwaas to Shaala to Fandry and Killa – to name a few – revealed to me a certain aesthetic I had seen somewhere. I told my friend with some delight, ‘I think Marathi cinema is going the Iranian cinema way. Isn’t it?’

Although not exclusively, but Iranian cinema, from Children of Heaven to Colour Of Paradise, has more so always vied for the heart over the head, the innocent over the intelligent attitude to film making. It has been more interested in the simple everyday stories, mirroring on screen the day-to-day struggles faced by families, seen on several occasions from the point of view of young eyes and muddled heads. It is this innocence – that without proper treatment of the subject matter could risk seeming ineffective at best and banal at worst – that for me makes Iranian cinema endearing more than anything else.

Now having a look at some good movies to come out of Marathi cinema of late, from the poignant Shwaas to Shala, Fandry and now to Killa, the movies here do not rely on some larger than life characters or a cinematic twist in the tale or even a resolution. Rather moving to the other extreme, it tries to present a slice of life of the most common person that it could find, thereby making the theme universal. Here too, a’ la Iranain cinema, the simple head and inquisitive eyes of a child are turning out to be a preferred medium of communication. Like in Fandry, when Jabya because of being born in a particular caste, has to chase the pig in front of his school mates, the humiliation is complete and would not be lost on anyone who has ever been a child. This is not to say that the aesthetic similarity between Marathi and Iranian is of a deliberate nature, but a beautiful tool employed effectively by two very diverse cultures.

I think it is good news for Marathi cinema, because it does require a certain amount of confidence in your art for a director – and a first time director like Avinash Arun at that- to pick up a story like Killa, where you cannot hide behind on screen histrionics. In a recent interview, Vishal Bharadwaj talking about the vulnerability of a director said, “You can tell a lot about a filmmaker from the movie. The filmmaker is emotionally naked on the movie screen” It is a healthy sign that many Marathi filmmakers are willing take off the garb of everything that is not good cinema and stand naked before the viewers with regularity.

Now coming back to Killa, my friend who has grown up in Kolhapur sprinted down memory lane within the first few minutes of the movie. When Bandya is shown humming ‘chandrakanta ki kahani’ she could not believe it. It was almost like someone has gone into her mind and splashed forth her childhood on the big screen. A special mention of the inspired scene when Bandya, a full of life youngster along with friends do a dhina-dhin-dha Anil ‘Ram Lakhan’ Kapoor style to welcome a classmate who enters wearing glares. It is such a blend of keenly observed childhoods, humour and imagination that it creates magic on screen.

Several movies at MAMI received a standing ovation. For Killa, however, it did not stop at that. People just stood as the credits rolled over and then did not know what to do with themselves after the credits have rolled over. They wanted more. They wanted to relive their childhoods just a wee bit longer.

(A crime reporter on a sabbatical,  Mohamed Thaver loves well created worlds – on screen, on pages or musical notes. His blog is here)

  1. Chhatrapal says:

    Very interesting write up … I personally feel … director duo of sumitra bhave and sunil sukhathanaknar’s film come closest to Iranian cinema, in both simplistic style and content. Problem is that thier films don’t get proper release. Films like ekach cup chya, vastupurush, dhoghi are standout cinema.yet to catch astu.
    I loved killa too … but now ‘coming of age’ and ‘ adolescence ‘ theme is too overused in marathi and probably too underused elsewhere. It is high time for marathi cinema to explore newer themes and newer style. Apart from that marathi film industry also churns out good amount of commercial crap like every other industry, which hardly reaches non marathi and festival audience

    • Rasik says:

      Paresh Mokashi’s upcoming film Elizabeth Ekadashi also seems to be a film with children as protagonists. Though the trailer is promising this theme is getting overused I agree. Urgent need to start exploring new subjects.

  2. rahulandrd says:

    is KILLA releasing soon? If yes when? if not where can I watch it?

  3. Rasik says:

    Love your observations but I agree with chhatrapal here. Sumitra Bhave – Sunil Sukhtankar’s cinema is closest to Iranian cinema. Very personal and rich in content. Sadly their films not only don’t get a good theatrical release but they also lack the lobbying skills to get their films to be screened at major film festivals in the country. This means their films remain uncelebrated by movie buffs despite being the best marathi filmmakers out there who are churning out quality cinema for the last decade or so.

  4. Reblogged this on theeverydaytattle and commented:
    My write-up for moifightclub

  5. K. says:

    I hugely disagree with the author on one point – about the comparison with Iranian cinema and the heart-vs-brain/innocence-vs-intelligence point…
    While I kinda agree with you on the Iranian films of filmmakers such as Majidi etc, there are others such as Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf who’ve made some of the most mindbogglingly innovative films I’ve ever seen. Even in films of Majidi, there’s undoubtedly some intelligence involved – there’s a reason why some all-heart films work and others don’t…
    Also, intelligence and innocence aren’t really mutually exclusive. Why does The 400 Blows or Pather Panchali work so wonderfully but, say, a Taare Zameen Par (the second half, at least) feel gratingly manipulative?
    Maybe I’m being pedantic here, but I often see this heart-vs-brain argument which I can’t buy. An extremely profound film such as Kiarostami’s Close-Up, about which hundreds of theses can be written, still carries a lot of heart whereas there’s a lot of intelligence involved in making a Children Of Heaven which can very well be subjected to critical analysis.

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