Thursday, February 18, 2016

Notes on Sairat (Wild) by Nagraj Manjule, India: 2016-Berlin Filmfestival VII.-Generation



Sairat is one of only 2 films from India screened at this year´s Berlinale.
It is a film in Cinema scope and it is nearly 3 hours long. My first impression – or better the first word -  which came into my mind is the “breathless”. During these 3 hours, the film goes through several metamorphoses. It happened often during this screening that I had an idea in which direction the film is moving and than – it turns to another direction, I never expected. It is both, an odyssey through different forms and genres of cinema and an odyssey through modern India between consumer society and ultra orthodox Hindu caste ideology. It is a film which overwhelms sometimes with the use of everything the apparatus of cinema can offer and in the next moment this apparatus unmasks itself as a machine which manipulates time and space. It is a film where the artificial constructed reality of a film is in a duel with that what we call the reality beyond the illusion of cinema, a fight between two mighty beasts.

At the beginning, it seems to be a commercial though very well made film with all, commercial Indian cinema can offer, well choreographed musical elements, romantic love story and last but not least slapstick aspects. We follow a track which will deceive us very soon.

The starting point is very simple. Boy loves girl but the girl is from a higher caste. When the boy Parsha tries to approach the girl Aarchie, it is for now romantic comedy, musical and slapstick – and the slapstick elements are delegated mostly to the supporting characters. The threatening of this young love appears at the beginning in well dosed hints. The film pretends we are safe because it seemingly does not want to be more than cinematic spectacle. And for cinema the film offers at the beginning a beautiful metaphor. In this village there is a big well, where the youngsters if girls or boys enjoy to bath and swim. The well is cinema, discotheque and meeting place at the same time. The cinema is like this well, it does not know the difference between caste class, religion, ethnic group etc. Friend sare warning Parsha that Aarchie´s upper caste family will kill them. One of them says that "life is not cinema with all its romantic love stories. And suddenly the film changes it´s tact. The hunt begins, Aarchie and Parsha flee from the village hunted by Aarchie´s family. After an odyssey the young couple finally reaches a big city. They are safe for now but suddenly reduced to the fight for surviving in a slum. The film which turned into a thriller becomes now a social drama. Their love will be challenged because in a slum there is no romantic. Romantic love is now replaced through doubt and morbid jealousy.

Even though we do not know in what direction the film will move now, there is an increasing feeling of uneasiness. The big city has both, the wrong promises of prosperity and the abyss of a life which consists only in a fight for the naked surviving. The couple goes through a crisis and later there will be a reconciliation like in Murnau´s Sunrise. But now when it seems that the young couple finally found happiness the the acidly sight of the world of an Erich von Stroheim manifested in his apocalyptic masterpiece Greed seems to invade this epic film. They have a child and Aarchi tries to make up with her family. The family finally sends a delegation of the same persons who hunted them earlier. They bring gifts for the child. There is a delusive petty bourgeois peace in this film. The television propagates permanently commercials about the prosperity in modern India. They do not live in a slum anymore but in a clean and comfortable apartment. And this Mody-India this fatal mixture of neo-liberalism and open caste based threats of fascism literally implodes under it´s own gravity.  And suddenly the film turns silent, not even music appears.  With the decease of the soundtrack the mighty apparatus of cinema the film is made with with and the 170 minutes seem to be reduced on this very moment.  Sairat, turns in its last metomorphosis into an apocalyptic and disturbing film which will stay with me as the most fathomless cinema experience of this year´s  festival and it proofs that the children, - and youth section is in it´s diversity the most interesting part of this morbid institution called Berlinale.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Screenings:
Feb 20, Cinemaxx 1                        10.30
Feb 21 Haus der Kulturen der Welt 16.00

2 comments:

  1. Superbly done, Rudi. You must make a video of this great review and publish it on Youtube. You'll be an overnight hit!

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  2. Great review...FYI this film, since its release a couple of weeks ago, has become a blockbuster in India. It is in a regional Indian language, but may end up being one of the biggest grossers for 2016.

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