Sunday, April 15, 2012

The artist, the ivory tower and the world: on Govind Nihalani’s restored Party

The old man on stage is performing a scene from the play Natasamrat, about a once-great artiste now living in his inner world. “All the greats are within me!” he declaims, lurching about the stage, “Caesar, Othello, Ganpatrao Belwalkar.” A woman – clearly a fan of the actor – watches from behind a curtain, deeply moved. "Caesar" is stabbed – “Brutus, tum bhi?” – and falls to the ground. The scene ends, the audience applauds.

Backstage, the woman meets the actor and voices her admiration. “Kitni vedna hoti hogi, na?” she asks (“There must be so much suffering involved in this performance?”) “Vedna mujhe nahin hoti, jo character mujh mein hai, usse hoti hai,” he replies politely. The suffering isn’t mine; it’s the suffering of the character inside me. Then he returns to the dressing room and removes his heavy makeup to reveal a much younger (and dare one say it, blander, less interesting) face beneath it.

Watching this scene in Govind Nihalani’s 1984 film Party, I did a double take. The face beneath the mask is that of Shafi Inamdar, whom I mainly remember for his role as the husband in the 1980s comedy show Yeh jo Hai Zindagi, and for a series of workmanlike character parts in movies. It was one of those moments that give you a fresh perspective on a performer whom you have taken for granted.

But this is just one of many startling scenes in an extraordinary film. Party has been a holy grail for many of the movie-lovers I know, its long-time unavailability on DVD one of our abiding cinematic puzzles. Apart from being a cutting social satire, this is the best representation I’ve seen in Hindi cinema of the chamber drama (where characters are forced into self-reflection in a closed setting) as well as of the ensemble movie. And yet it has been out of circulation for years. (I heard from an acquaintance some time ago that Nihalani himself had been searching for a decent print; this is not difficult to believe.)


Well, it’s here now, in an excellent print – one of the new “Cinemas of India” DVDs, which are restorations of NFDC films made in the 1980s and 90s. These discs represent a very important step in film preservation in India and I’ll be writing a longer piece about them soon, but for now here are some thoughts on Party.

****

The sequence mentioned above is one of the establishing scenes of Nihalani’s film, but it also touches on a key theme: the divide between an artist’s work and his life. Is it possible for a character on stage to feel intense vedna while the actor playing that character claims to be untouched by the emotions (and afterwards peels off his makeup, puts on a shiny red kurta and leaves for a cocktail party)? Is it similarly possible for a writer to express a powerful social conscience and sympathy for the downtrodden in his work while otherwise leading a privileged life at a vast remove from the subjects of his writing?


Adapted by Nihalani and Mahesh Elkunchwar from the latter’s play, Party raises these questions from many different perspectives. In its opening minutes we meet the people – most of them writers or artists, or otherwise connected with the cultural world – who will gather at the house of arts patron Damayanti Rane (Vijaya Mehta). The much-felicitated poet Barve (Manohar Singh) is accompanied by his alcoholic wife Mohini (Rohini Hattangadi), a failed actress who is constantly “performing” – even in private moments with her husband – and seems incapable of distinguishing between art and life. (No wonder she interprets a line in Barve’s work about “khokhla pyaar” – hollow love – as a personal jibe.) Other guests include Inamdar’s theatre actor Ravindra, who is more adept at separating himself from his roles; the ostentatiously radical Vrinda (Gulan Kripalani) who specialises in preaching social responsibility to others; Damayanti’s melancholy daughter Sona (Deepa Sahi), who has a child out of wedlock; and a dignified doctor (Amrish Puri) who is an outsider to this circle (possibly even a stand-in for the viewer), watching from a distance, making the others uneasy (“Lagta hai aap lagaataar humein dekh rahe hain,” Barve tells him jokingly). Meanwhile a group of young partygoers – led by Damayanti’s son Rahul – take over an upstairs room and dance to popular American music, mostly unconcerned with the goings-on downstairs.

As the evening progresses, little details of character emerge. When we see how the aspiring poet Bharat (K K Raina) shrinks from getting his brand-new kurta ruffled at a bus-stop, we understand how much the invitation to this party (populated by potential “contacts”) means to him. Vrinda bickers with a playwright about the shameless populism of his writing and he retorts “You Marxists speak of the aam aadmi, yet you mock his tastes while sitting comfortably in your Malabar Hills bungalows.” Private epiphanies are experienced, confessions made and what began as a parade of stereotypes becomes a complex skein of people, capable of self-awareness but caught in the images they have created for themselves. This aspect of Party reminded me of Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, in which a group of sophisticates settle down for a dinner party and then find they cannot escape their claustrophobic setting.

Inevitably, then, much of the talk converges on someone who did succeed in leaving – a poet named Amrit, friend to many of those present, who is now fighting the cause of exploited tribals. This enigmatic figure (whose simultaneous absence from and centrality to the proceedings is reminiscent of Beckett’s Godot and Conrad’s Mr Kurtz) becomes a catalyst for our understanding of these partygoers. Their feelings about him run from hero-worship to indifference to mild annoyance (“This so-called social commitment has become fashionable”) to contempt (perhaps Amrit’s “activism” is a cover for his being a creative spent force, Barve remarks drily). But when a journalist named Avinash (Om Puri) – the only person to have met Amrit recently – joins the group, banter gives way to an intense, no-holds-barred debate about an artist’s role in an injustice-ridden society. Is it enough for him to work in seclusion, or must he put himself at risk by participating in the world? “Hum likhte hain kyonke humein likhna hai” (“We write because we must”) Barve says, but Avinash insists that every work of art is a weapon and that art and politics are inseparable. “Do we want to live as artists or as human beings?”

Party is a startlingly fresh film both in these big discussions and in its casual chatter about the literary world. Two people debate the relative merits of Rushdie and Naipaul (and I admit to being amused to find that Naipaul had a reputation for being "bitter" even three decades ago). A minor character named Ila (played by Ila Arun) asks Barve why there is so little of the female perspective in his work, and though his reply is an apparently sensible one (he can only convincingly write about the things he knows), we are reminded of his distant, condescending attitude towards his wife. “You English speakers think too much of yourselves,” one person says, provoking the retort that there is such a thing as “vernacular snobbery” too. (Yet this party itself is clearly an aspirational setting where anyone not comfortable in English would be out of place. Bharat awkwardly says things like “She is drunken” just to make small talk and to fit in.) Opposing views are expressed on nearly every major topic. Damayanti (who basks in the reflected glory of artists without being one herself) is called a parasite, but the word becomes equally significant in another context – it can refer to a smug artist living off his early work and reputation, becoming fattened on fame without ever feeling impelled to seek fresh ground or question his own assumptions.

By now it should be clear that this is (like nearly all of Nihalani’s work) an explicitly idea-driven film: politically charged, full of reflection and counter-reflection. Being adapted from a major play in close collaboration with the playwright, it has the discipline and rigour of good theatre (and features a cast of fine stage actors – Mehta’s performance in the relatively unshowy part of the hostess becomes more impressive each time you see it). But these things perhaps make it important to clarify that this is definitely not just a static filming of a stage production. There is a strong cinematic sense in the use of space, the positioning of the characters relative to each other, the cross-cutting between groups of people. Frequently, parallels or contrasts exist within the same frame: as Bharat recites one of Amrit’s angry poems, we see youngsters dancing blithely through a window in the background; there is a fleeting moment when two “gatecrashers” move through a room looking bemused at the serious talk happening around them. And there are splendidly orchestrated scenes such as the one where, during a conversation between Barve and Damayanti, the camera repeatedly cuts outside the room to watch the drunk Mohini moving around silently on the porch. Barve will make a key confession about himself at around the same time his wife is shocked by her own image in the mirror.

****

Driven though it is by conversation, Party ends with a harrowing wordless sequence where an old poet and a young poet (one man who has lived a complacent life; another who is in danger of doing so) share a nightmare vision and face their consciences. The scene ties in with a motif in Nihalani’s early cinema: the voiceless person, someone who is either unable or reluctant to speak up. (See Om Puri’s Lahanya Bhiku in Aakrosh or the silent, suffering wife played by Deepa Sahi in Aaghat.) But it also takes us back to the very beginning of Party – to a lovely shot of Sona reading a letter written by Amrit, so focused on the text that she barely moves, the camera drawing tentatively towards her. (Watching the film a second time, one might consider the light gently streaming in through the silk curtains in the background and think about the irony of this poet-activist’s letter being read in such a refined, unthreatened bourgeoisie setting.)


Bheenche huye jabre dard kar rahe hain,” says the voiceover (“My clenched jaws are aching”). “Kitni der tak dabaaya jaa sakta hai khaulte laave ko. Kisi bhi pal khopri crater mein badal jaaye.” (“How long can I stay silent and keep this lava inside me? My head feels like it could turn into a crater.”)

[This may be a good time to point out that the shuddh Hindi used in this screenplay is occasionally so dense and layered that you might need to watch some scenes a second time just to fully process what is being said.]

The voice is the familiar one of Naseeruddin Shah and a tinge of amusement enters it when he says “khopri crater mein badal jaaye”, as if to acknowledge the corniness of such an analogy in an otherwise austere monologue. But when the writer of this letter makes his brief appearance in the final seconds of Party, the words will be given a morbidly literal form. It is one of many times in this film where something said in a light vein subsequently acquires a much darker shade. In brightly lit, elegantly furnished rooms people clink glasses and make small talk, but there are storms raging, both in their hearts and in the world outside.

Party isn’t a movie that you can appreciate in just about any mood, but those who open themselves to it will be driven back to it a few times. It is so well written, constructed and performed that it should stimulate even those (I include myself here) who are ambivalent about its ideological position. Wary though I am of hyperbole while rating movies, I think this is among Hindi cinema's great achievements. And now it has the print it deserves.

P.S. For anyone interested in recurring visual motifs in a director’s work, especially from one film to the next, here’s a little exercise: watch the very last scene of Party, note how a shuffling walk creates the sense of someone weighed down by heavy chains, and then watch the opening shot of the film Nihalani made immediately after it – Aghaat. (I wrote about Aghaat in this post.) The little "link" between the two scenes reminded me of other prominent inter-film connections, such as the similarity between the closing shot of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and the opening shot of his next film A Clockwork Orange.

52 comments:

  1. which publication was this written for?

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  2. Anon: this was just for the blog, but I'm doing a broader piece for Caravan about some of the NFDC restorations (including Party).

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  3. any idea where i might be able to buy these prints?

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  4. ah, nice. will keep watching this space. dont usually subscribe to Caravan. :)

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  5. Siddya: I got mine from local stores but it should be possible to buy them online - check this link or the Shemaroo website.

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  6. Nevermind. Found the link to buy this dvd. It's pretty cheap :)

    http://www.shemaroo.com/shopping/Product.asp?pid=4532

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  7. Wow ! This movie (and the play on which it is based )sounds so amazing and if I may dare say , so much ahead of its time or even the current time for that matter .

    I can't believe I had never even heard of it before (Ouch!) and its been made by Govind Nihalani , someone whose work I have always admired.

    This is the reason I love your blog so much .

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  8. This is a superbly crafted piece Jay, particularly because it so diligently goes beyond the apparent denseness of the movie and manages to capture its essence.

    I am sorry to bring myself into it but I was at the media preview of the film in 1984 (I think it was at the small preview theater either at Strand or Excelsior in Bombay.) I distinctly remember Govind Nihalani waiting anxiously in the foyer as critics came out at the end of the movie. Most of them just walked past him, some politely acknowledged him, and only a Marathi journalist friend of mine, who knew Eklunchwar, and I stopped to chat him up a bit. The Marathi friend instinctively said to Nihalani in Marathi,"Cinema khupach changla vaatla pan samanya lokana avannar nahi." (I loved the movie but the average audience will not like it)." Nihalani said, "I know."

    Incidentally, your line "one man who has lived a complacent life; another who is in danger of doing so" is excellent. Excellent.

    Thank you for reintroducing this gem to this generation. I think Nihalani has got the review he so eminently deserved nearly three decades later.

    Cheers

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  9. Mayank: thanks for that story about the preview - not surprising at all, unfortunately. I can imagine this film being particularly close to Nihalani's heart. Did it even get anything like a proper theatrical release?

    Thanks also for the kind words. The film struck a chord with me, so I wrote this alongside the piece I was doing on the restorations (which is tricky business!). Long though it is, I'm sure I could do another 2000-3000 words on this movie.

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  10. I vaguely remember the movie finding some very minor theatrical release in Mumbai, although I could be wrong.

    Although made in the midst of the so-called era of "parallel cinema", it was obvious that it would not go the distance.

    Do a book on Nihalani.

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  11. ...so much ahead of its time or even the current time for that matter

    Prashila: yes, it's very much a film of ideas, and even if those ideas are sometimes expressed stridently, it's good to see a feature film that engages with them at all. And some of the discussions and arguments are more widely relevant than they appear to be - they don't have to apply only in the context of high-society cultural czars and ivory-tower artists.

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  12. Do a book on Nihalani.

    Mayank: now I feel like you're Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, training your binoculars at my head and figuring out what's going on in there! Will email you soon.

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  13. Ha ha ha, that's funny. The man deserves you.

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  14. Jai - i just bought its dvd...too happy

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  15. It's good to see these films being restored and re-released. Are there special features to go with the films? I feel tremendously cheated buying old Hindi film DVDs, cheap as they are. With no director interviews or extended cuts/narrations, I find it a criminal under-utilization of the medium.

    Something like the "Criterion" collection for these classics would be great.

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  16. brilliant work. would love to read your take on M.S. Sathyu (Garam Hawa)

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  17. Thanks so much for this detailed review. I was excited to see the recent crop of NFDC DVD releases (I found them on Induna.com), but I wasn't familiar with all of the movies. This one sounds superb, rich and fascinating. I've added it to my Induna wish list! I'm an admirer of Nihalani's *Hazaar chaurasi ki ma* and generally a fan of this contemplative kind of movie where people puzzle out difficult ideas in challenging and symbolically-charged conversation.

    carla (filmi geek)
    http://filmigeek.net

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  18. Ajay: a Criterion Collection for old Indian films seems like a huge pipe dream just now - even these restorations are a big step given the general neglect of old prints. The only supplement I know of is on the Jaane bhi do Yaaro DVD (a conversation with Kundan Shah and Ranjit Kapoor), but thankfully these DVDs are reasonably priced.

    Temporal: there's a Garam Hava post here.

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  19. Carla: I must confess to not having seen Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma (which came out during a period when I wasn't watching Hindi cinema at all), but that will be amended soon. Have to catch up with a couple of Nihalani's other films too.

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  20. Hey Jai - I watched this film last night. It was shocking and really bold. Not many hindi films will have a dialogue a daughter telling her mother, "You are a parasite". However, I found it a bit forced.Its more like a person asking some fundamental questions and many brilliant scenes put together but it was not seamless.

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  21. Pessimist Fool: interesting you felt that way. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "seamless", but it's true that many of the great chamber dramas (Bergman's Cries and Whispers, for example) have an inbuilt theatrical quality - containing monologues and "spoken thoughts" that aren't strictly naturalistic. (I think the term was originally used for plays that were meant to be read aloud rather than performed.) Party does have some of that quality - is that what didn't work for you?

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  22. yeah Jai - after reading your comment, it does seem to me that it was meant to be read aloud. therefore starting lines a poem has such an impact because as an audience i don't see his face. my focus was entirely on words and i was thinking when was the last time i heard such hindi. you are right even character placement and shot seemed more like theatre and not film (i've never seen a play so its just a gut feeling). however, it was damn bold. Eklunchwar and Nihalani didn't bother too much about so called moral brigade and that itself left me shocked. Plus Naipaul and Rushdie's reference. I recently started reading Naipaul and was so surprised to see his book in Amrish Puri's hands. I felt it was so contemporary.

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  23. one of the vivid memories of my childhood is watching it on TV and then as a play.....as a child,what one remembers is usually the feelings associated with something,rather than a visual memory...and I remember how unhappy and brittle the women were...it has a a few gentle touches of humour in the beginning,centred around om puri's character,but the mood becoming darker and conflicted as the film progresses.I'm quite surprised that the film was limited in it's release,considering that it's actually more watchable and less consciously earnest than many of NFDC's more heavy handed products.And was Nihalani trying to point out to these very people,sitting in Bombay and making films about suppression in rural Bihar?
    P.S. This was a long winded and self indulgent comment.sorry.

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  24. @ Sai - that was a good comment. Was Nihalani taking a dig at his own mentor, Benegal? @ Jai - Have you ever done posts on how was Benegal's relationship with Nihalani? And other such posts.

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  25. Did it even get anything like a proper theatrical release?
    . It was 'premiered' on Doordarshan, and was the first in a series of premieres in the Sunday evening slot. The experiment lasted a year or so. This particular one, for example, had Shanta Gokhale introducing the movie and an interview with Nihalani followed. I don't know if DD recorded that but would have been an interesting feature on DVD. I doubt the film was so rare all this while, I had the VCD print all this while, but a restored print is always welcome. Elkunchwar's play is available in English translation brought out by Seagull, with the introduction written by Amol Palekar who directed the first ever staging. As for the register of Hindi being used, it reflects the Sanskritised Marathi of the original and is also is closer to the kind of language employed by people it portrays. Remember, till as late as about 20 years ago the intellectual discourse was multilingual, quite a few of our scholars wrote in more than one language, or chose to write in Indian languages even while being proficient in English or academically trained in English or drawing thir influences from non -Indian sources.

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  26. Thank YOU! I quick-ah ordered it in Flipkart and now I await delivery. I had just posted in Twitter a few days ago that an aspiring entrepreneur should start selling DVDs of older classics with additional footage etc. Plus, these NFDC student productions of folks such as Raman Raghav and An Encounter with Faces.

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  27. I had watched this once long back on DD when I was an adolescent and I remember it struck a chord, though I did not grasp it fully. Would love to see a restored print now. Thanks for the post.

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  28. And was Nihalani trying to point out to these very people,sitting in Bombay and making films about suppression in rural Bihar?

    Sai: yes, that's very perceptive. It reminds me of something similar Naseeruddin Shah said in my interview with him. Though ironically, Naseer (in one of his characteristic bad-tempered moods) may have had Nihalani and other non-mainstream directors in mind when he said that!

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  29. Elkunchwar's play is available in English translation brought out by Seagull, with the introduction written by Amol Palekar who directed the first ever staging.

    Anon: I just ordered - on Flipkart - an anthology of Elkunchwar's plays, including Party and Holi - the book has an introduction by Vijaya Mehta. Looking forward to reading it.

    Remember, till as late as about 20 years ago the intellectual discourse was multilingual, quite a few of our scholars wrote in more than one language, or chose to write in Indian languages even while being proficient in English...

    Very good point. I read pieces by some of those writers (including Dilip Chitre, whose poem was used in Ardh Satya) in the anthology The Best of Quest recently - wrote about it here.

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  30. And Sai, a quick aside: Om Puri makes his appearance more than an hour into the film, and there are no humorous scenes involving him - unless you count the nice little moment where Damayanti tells the doctor "I've never heard you talk so much in the 25 years I've known you" and everyone in the room laughs just to let out the accumulated tension.

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  31. Wonderful piece Jai. And am thoroughly enjoying your book on JBDY too. Happened to watch 'Party' last week and then did a Nihalani film festival at home to revive memories. He's one of my favourite filmmakers. You might want to read my tribute to Nihalani. http://www.filmimpressions.com/home/2012/04/people-we-like-govind-nihalani-part-1.html

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  32. Jai and Pessimist Fool - the Naseer interview, coupled with this film, pose interesting questions about the intelligentsia of the time,don't they?all these people whose very idealism became a stereotype.
    (And- oh dear.I actually misremembered Om Puri's part.this means a re-viewing is essential.of course these new beautifully produced DVDs have nothing to do with it).

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  33. Deepa: that's a terrific tribute. I really need to watch/rewatch all his films soon. I think he's an interesting subject for auteurist criticism, given the stylistic and thematic recurrences in his work.

    ...all these people whose very idealism became a stereotype.

    Sai: and even this thought is expressed within the film's screenplay, when Barve says with a little smile (and much to Vrinda's annoyance) that even Amrit's activism can be seen as a form of romanticism. Of course, this is not presented as an "equal opinion" by the film (which is ultimately sympathetic to such romanticism), but at least the thought is put out there.

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  34. After reading this post, I was reminded of another movie made around 8 years later by Mani Kaul, Ahammak, an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Idiot. I was a teen then and couldn’t grasp the entire movie, though I remember parts of it being quite disturbing. Really wanted to see it again but haven’t seen/found it anywhere? Have you watched it, Jai? A recap would be great.

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  35. Though yours is a superbly written review, I cannot agree with it. I found the tone also too reverential. Frankly, I thought 'Party' quite pretentious, parading fairly banal observations with enormous gravitas, as if they were profound insights. I remember the film got mixed reviews when it came out, unlike the three earlier movies Govind Nihalani had made - Aakrosh, Vijeta and Ardh Satya - which drew unstinted praise. The stuff the characters in the movie discussed was what all of us were discussing then. It was a far more political time than the present. Party didn't take things any further. And such a heavy handed approach without a trace of humour. I found the Om Puri character a joke, while the director was clearly rooting for him.

    But my impressions are from 30 years ago when the film first came out. I was young then and quick to dismiss. Maybe I should see it again.

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  36. Naipaul's Area of Darkness came out in 1964. So he would have earned his 'bitter' reputation well before this film. Am surprised about the mention of Rushdie though. Maybe it was around Midnight's Children's time?

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  37. @ Paritosh - yeah i guess Midnight's Children was 1981 and this was in 1985. Rushdie should have won Booker in 1982 and by then he started touring countries and India I guess prominently featured in his visits and talks about his book. ha ha ha I love the simplicity of titles of Naipaul's India trilogy. Its almost crude :-)

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  38. Anon: I respect your view (and by the time I had seen Party for the fourth time, some scenes did look heavyhanded), but I'm not sure what you mean by "it didn't take things any further". There is a basic nihilism built into this very premise; what answers or solutions can one expect? (If anything, the one concrete suggestion made here - that artists should put their actions where their words are - seems highly extreme and impractical.)

    Incidentally I'm just about to read Elkunchwar's play. From the Introduction by Ananda Lal:

    "Party dates from Elkunchwar's angry-young-man phase ... Art born out of angry outbursts tends not to rise to superior levels, nor mature with age ... Elkunchwar's antipathy for these celebrities was apparent and not very attractive beyond a point. Sensitive author that he is, he recognised its drawbacks himself: 'each man's way of life has an inner logic. It was necessary that I should try to understand that. Instead I sat down to pass moral judgement. I was not wise enough then.' He modified his methods and 10 years later produced his masterpiece of no-moral-judgement, Wada Chirebandi, about the Vidarbha community he knew from within."

    Again, an interesting perspective, but I personally felt that Party (the film at least) was quite empathetic towards its people as individuals, even as it holds a harsh light up to the social setting.

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  39. I just meant the proposition that artists and intellectuals who discuss politics in their writings, or whose writings have a political slant, should also participate in political activity is an old one, and has been discussed ad nauseum, threadbare all through the 20th century. When I was young in the 1970s and 1980s I heard discussions on the subject all the time, whenever journalists/artists/analysts got together. 'Praxis' was the word, coined I think by Paulo Freire, which means combining reflection and action: it was heard all the time. Party just repeats what was being discussed, without offering any fresh insights, or adding to the arguments.
    The Ananda Lal extract you quote is very sensible and perceptive, I must say.Elkunchwar has clearly evolved, must read his later plays.

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  40. @ Anon and Jai - Have you read Garbo by Mahesh Enkulchwar? it is also highhanded. but the character of that prostitute is well sketched. she is a part time actress too and the three male characters are an attempt to more or less capture how Indian men are. I felt the same while watching Bhumika. The men in Smita Patil's life were like 4 chapters written on one character which is Indian male :)

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  41. Jai, this was a post which brought all the memories linked to watching this movie on DD many years ago. I must confess that KK Raina was a character (ironing his kurta for a party of this magnitude, and waiting to hire a taxi, being uber polite to senior literati members) i associated/identified with my years as an aspiring journo. But your description of the movie and your observations put it in a very interisting persspective. Keep digging out such gems, boss. Even at the cost of sounding like a 20-something fan, i have to say that indi-cine lovers owe one to you. I owe you a drink too, dude, for this post

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  42. Jai,

    Firstly, thank you for writing on this movie - I had only heard of it, but the first two paragraphs of your, um... review, made me want to watch it. I loved the movie.

    Shades of Rules of the Game? No?

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  43. I had a dim memory of having watched this on DD and then years later I luckily stumbled upon a copy and was able to refresh my memory. I had put up a short post, but it doesn't amount to snuff now that this eloquent post has rightfully asserted the film's value :)

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  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. Thank you Jai.

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  46. Great Post Jai, brilliant observation that the film can not be watched in just about any mood. I remember seeing this film many years back. Yes! it is beautifully written and is arguably Nihalani's best work.

    I liked it more than Ardh satya and Aakrosh,one of the best joys of great cinema is its ability to enthrall the audience through a varied and rich dialogue. Party has beautiful dialogue which is also a commentary on the pre liberalised India of the 80's.

    A great review. My congratulations.

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  47. So glad I came across this post last week, Jai, because I had been looking for a copy of Party for a long time and couldn't find it anywhere. Went and got myself a copy, watched it over the weekend, and finally read your post on it...wow, what a movie. Other than all the points you nicely illustrated, I was struck by just how well the context and content of Party is made for today: the socio-political issues, complexity of character, the hypocracy, the debate over the artist vs human being and the lingo, too - it feels like nothing has changed. Makes me wonder, has society remained that static, have we not evolved at all?

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  48. Neha: I know. It isn't very likely that a society would evolve so much over just two-and-a-half decades anyway, but (speaking as someone who is possibly naive and uninformed about the intellectual life of the 70s - when Elkunchwar wrote his play - and early 80s) I was surprised by how familiar some of the issues were. Perhaps I had this rose-tinted idea that things were a lot different in the pre-liberalisation/soft-socialism era.

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  49. This movie struck a much more intense chord with me than Ardh Satya or Aakrosh. The final frames of the movie just don't leave you. I agree that at some points, the movie did get slightly preachy, but mostly, it made me uncomfortable as the camera focuses on situations one usually ignores in a social setting and some situations were disturbingly real. I have this fondness for movies set in a limited environment, This one, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla etc. Kudos to NFDC and Great write up too :)

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  50. Jai Sir, i am a fan of your write-ups and IMO this take of yours on Party brings forth points about the film which no one had touched upon earlier. And Sir this is my humble piece on Vijeta which is posted on Satyam Shot- http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/saurabh-on-vijeta/

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  51. I recently saw the film and tumbled into your piece. So pardon me for a few clarifications- Rohini Hattangadi is not the wife, and that is crucial to understand the insecurity she experiences and why her staying on in the relationship is inexplicable to the people who listen to her. Secondly, the writer's need to write is expressed not by Barve but by Bharat whose position on the role of art in very interesting. It is a combination of art for art's sake and yet also speaks for an art that is alive with social criticism
    I was also struck by how the film spoke about a cultural scene where art could be written in hindi but social acceptability of the artist depends on a circle which prizes its grasp over english.

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  52. Hi, Fantastic review, but I have one niggle, I don't think you can assign a political stance to this movie. The truth is, as you rightly pointed out, the characters are people very much like the group in bunuel's film, that is to say they are incapable of leaving the room. The bloody, mutilated figure of Amrit at the end is not a figure of society's injustice or even the harsh political realities of a third world nation, it is the abysmal terror, these two poets have, of facing the contradictions in their "inner logic", as elkunchwar so beautifully puts it.
    Or maybe I am spending too much time thinking about a film when I should instead be out in the jungle, leading the revolution.

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