March 20, 2012

Chambal to Kolkata: A Paradigm shift in Indian Cinema -Backdrop playing the Protagonist!

Every story has a backdrop, a background, a medium where the plot is set. And a good story teller never misses this integral build-up to the plot. A story is best when it can vividly describe the settings and sidings. He who has been able to create pictures and scenes in the beholder's mind, is surely one of the best in business.

These guidelines are just some of the basic rules of thoughtful story-telling.

But Wait! I recently watched two movies in a week's time. Tigmanshu Dhulia's "Paan Singh Tomar" and the other one was "Kahaani" directed by Sujoy Ghosh. Both of them with gripping storylines as have many other hindi cinemas been. Yet, there was something else about them that made me think & wonder.

Digging deep, I came to a conclusion that it was the treatment, direction, lenswork & editing provided to the backdrops of these films. Kolkata, in case of Kahaani and Chambal for Paan Singh Tomar. The beauty of both the cinema was that their backgrounds were so beautifully expressed that they ultimately turned out to be the protagonist of the stories.

From the times when background meant a Curtain behind actors to the days of hitech studios was a phase of transformation. But the true metamorphosis of Cinema has been the ability to bring that background element to the fore in a manner that it seems a character enlivened. Yes, film making has covered a long distance.

Even when we talk of the recent past of late 90s you could hardly find a movie not littered with a dozen odd songs put into without any situational demand. Today, we rarely find such insolent and irritating film makers.

Kahaani is a thriller starring Vidya Balan as a pregnant mother in search of her husband. The most remarkable thing about the film, as I said, is its potrayal of Kolkata. The city, at no point seemed to be the backdrop but a protagonist in itself! A character, and that too a powerful one!

A glowing tribute to the essense & elements of the city of Joy is played through its Yellow Taxis, Chaotic Traffic, Leisurely Trams, Chaai, Poori-bhaaji, Claustrophobic Metros, Draining Lanes, Red-bordered Sarees & the concept of hot-running water. :)

General stereotyping of Kolkata culture in hindi films has been an over-emphasising O-ending accent, melodrama, overt display of yellow colour & conch shells. To my delight, the director, in this case has restrained his over-enthusiasm, thereby making the plot so very natural.

Even the last Dussehra scenes of Sindur-Khela perfectly depicts how Kolkata acquires a whole new intensity of "Shakti" during the famed Durga puja. Director Sujoy Ghosh has been so very successful in presenting the city of Joy as a dynamic central character. He has, in the process, stood himself in a different league of the once infamous dieing breed of insightful Bengali film makers.

Now, lets take up another example which enhances the value and quality of Indian cinema. One will always have high expectations from storytellers like Tigmanshu Dhulia after watching acts like Haasil & Sahib, Biwi aur Gangster. However, Paan Singh Tomar stands apart from his other flicks in terms of sheer class. Irfan Khan, to me has always been the best among all Khans, although the media might only talk Shahrukh, Amir, Salman or Saif Ali Khan in one breath.

Many sceptics, out of humour, are furtively saying that Irfan Khan has done much more through this film than any Sports minister could ever do for athletics. The hard-hitting story is meant to be a question to the society, that too an inconvenient one.

One remarkable parameter that made Paan Singh Tomar stand apart was the potrayal of Chambal, its backdrop. Howsoever do we talk of athletics & the unsung heroes of Indian sports, but this cinema is in fact a tribute to the history, geography & society of the ravines. Showcasing Chambal in a manner that it plays like a central living character throughout the story.

To be forthright, I have always refrained from writing film reviews on my Blog, neither am I a big cinema buff. But here i couldn't stop myself expressing something as simple & as glorious as this -Indian cinema has come of age!

Yes, Bollywood is evolving and that too with the steepest of slopes upward. May this cinematic journey continue!


  1. true sir ji...definately true acting legend irfaan khan..and supposed to be best actress of this time vidya balan acting would make us feel alive while watching the movies...hatts off to u guys..and ur article definately touch each and every beautiful part of that...

  2. Very Insightful writing. Background ko diya jane wale importance ke karan hi aaj ki filmo ka level itna zabardast ho gaya hai.

    kahani aur pan singh tomar dono hi top class ki filmein hain.

  3. sahi kaha apne.... Parde se nayak tak ka safar sahi mein kaafi lamba tha background ke liye Mainstream cinema mein..... Cinema nahi kah sakte kyunki bahut se path breaking directors ne yeh koshish ki aur lajwaab filmein di...

  4. dear dear writer,

    now this is shear class of yours, i cannot explain how i like this blog of yours even though i have not seen any of these two movies. Now, i can proudly say that u simply is awesome, i have never seen any one explaining such beautifully about any movie. carry on this beautiful work because this is who u are....on this blog...anupam rocks.

  5. Great piece of article.
    Cinema has truly evolved manifold. The good thing is that technology is not the only contributor but it has evolved due to insightful & thought provoking films.

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