Sunday, November 01, 2015

THE IMMORTALS: MOVIE REVIEW


Director: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Runtime: 52 min.
Verdict: Fetishizing objects rather than their history. Amoral and problematic.
Genre: Documentary

              The filmmaking here is hacky, and when Mr. Dungarpur, in his cringe worthy nostalgic voiceover iterating for the 100th time his love for it all, claims that he waited for several moments for Mr. LV Prasad’s movie to fire up on the 70 mm screen only to cut to the screen a couple of moments later rather than a couple of moments before, you do realize that his claim that it was all done in haste is merely an understatement. I would want to concede the benefit of the doubt as far as the filmmaking is concerned, but to color museums/objects/archives under a solemn shade of nostalgia is, as Patricio Guzm├ín Nostalgia for the Light, or Mr. Alexander Sokourov’s Francofonia would tell us is a problematic retelling of history. Mr. Dungarpur, after Celluloid Man, feels the need to do away with talking faces and instead to narrate a history of Indian cinema through a few objects. Like for instance, Dadasaheb Phalke’s abandoned car (gracing the film’s poster), or letters from Jean Renoir to Ramanand Sengupta. Noble and presumably harmless intentions, at first glance, but this is the exact approach that papers over the true ideology/meaning/significance of an object in historical terms. It reduces history to facts and numbers, and thus assumes the role of the subtlest of propaganda tools in the hands of the prevalent authority. A crude example I used elsewhere, but a shopping mall or a skyscraper from a renowned builder comes with its own context and its own significance as a representation of the state of affairs. But focusing on its essential function, which in the mall’s case is to presumably be a place for all sorts of shopping, or in the case of Mr. Jagdish Raj’s several police uniforms is to highlight he played several cops, is to rid them of their context and what they essentially represent. 150 years does not leave a building merely as an important building from a different era. I might not be a lefty, but a little bit of ideology goes a long way in differentiating history from facts, for the amorality of the latter is not merely harmless, it is the very root of nerdy nostalgia concealing the apathy typical consumerist behaviors like cinephilia or fetishist collection of artifact for artifact sake represent. Those two chess players in Shatranj Ke Khiladi had no idea how to deal with their history, and I am not sure if the lost reel of Greed or a rare poster of some film is necessarily different. This kind of examination is dead on arrival, the kind of examination that I suppose governments/regimes/authorities all through history have looked forward to encourage for it is in essence all so self-congratulatory.

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