Rekha and Shekhar Suman in Utsav
Shashi Kapoor’s Utsav
based on the Sanskrit drama Mrichhakatika narrates the story
of the love affair of a brahamin merchant Charudatta (Shekhar Suman)
and a beautiful courtesan Vasantsena (Rekha). Vasantsena runs away
from Samasthanka (Shashi Kapoor), the libidinous brother-in-law of
the king and hides in the house of Charudatta. Samasthanka believes
that he has killed Vasantsena. When Charudatta is sentenced to death
for Vasantsena’s murder, she turns up, alive and well and saves
her lover’s life. The picturesque film is an aesthetic delight.
Gautam Ghosh’s Paar
celebrates the triumph of courage and conviction. When henchmen of
Utpal Dutt, a landlord, kill a benevolent schoolmaster, the only the
progressive person in the village, Naurangia (Naseeruddin Shah)
kills the landlord’s brother in retaliation. Naurangia runs away
to Calcutta with his wife Rama (Shabana Azmi). They move from pillar
to post but find no employment. When Rama is to deliver her child,
they decide to return to their ancestral village. To earn the fare,
they agree to drive a herd of pigs through the swollen river. Both
Shabana and Shah give a finely nuanced performance in this scene. In
the middle of the stream, Rama fears that she has lost her baby. The
film ends on an optimistic note when after crossing the river,
Naurangia puts his ear to Rama’s belly and listens to the
heartbeats of the unborn child. The joy on their faces mirrors the
divine rapture of a devotee who has found God.
Party makes a hard-hitting analysis of Bombay’s
pseudo-intellectuals. Mrs Rane (Vijaya Mehta) hosts a party in
honour of a poet Amrit (Naseeruddin Shah) who has won a literary
award. As the evening passes, the masks of guests and hosts
gradually drop and all of them are revealed to the shallow
hypocrites. The climax is all the more shocking. It is learnt that
Amrit will not be coming as he has been killed. The guests slowly
leave the party. The film discusses whether a person can have two
sets of values, one as an artist and the other as a human being.
Saeed Mirza’s Mohan
Joshi Hazir Ho celebrates tenacity of an average person. Mohan
Joshi (Bhisham Sahni) — a retired clerk sues his landlord Kapadia
(Amjad Khan) who wants to tear down an old building and build luxury
buildings in order to earn more. Joshi engages a lawyer (Naseeruddin
Shah) who promises legal miracles. The building is ready to fall.
When a judge arrives to inspect the building for himself, the
Machiavellian landlord sends an army of workers to fix the building
to impress the judge to rule in his favour. Joshi pulls the
temporary supports put up by the workers to prop up the building and
the building falls down on him. The old couple — Joshi and his
wife — are symbolic of an individuals awareness of his rights and
the need to fight for them.
Prakash Jha’s Damul
depicts the feudal custom of panha against the backdrop
of caste conflicts, massacre of untouchables and rape. Madho (Manohar
Singh), a zamindar, uses the system of bonded labour to
subjugate the harijan labourer, Sanjeevan (Annu Kapoor).
Madho runs an extortion racket based on stealing cattle and forcing
the owners to buy them back. The peasants who do not have any money
to pay for the cattle borrow from the zamindar, thereby
setting off yet another unending spiral of debt. In the end,
Sanjeevan’s wife kills Madho. The film is a powerful evocation of
moral degradation culminating in self-destruction.
Amol Palekar’s Ankahee
is based on fatalism and superstition. Shriram Lagoo, an astrologer,
predicts that the first wife of his son Nandu (Amol Palekar) will
die in childbirth. This puts to an end Nandu’s plans to marry
Sushma. Hoping to circumvent his father’s prediction, Nandu
marries Indu (Deepti Naval), a mentally retarded girl. When she
conceives, Nandu tells her his father’s prediction. Indu is taken
to the hospital and she survives but Sushma commits suicide.
- Kumar Shahani articulates his
concerns about social and political realities in Tarang. An
industrialist family headed by Shriram Lagoo splits when his
son-in-law (Amol Palekar) falls out with Lagoo’s nephew (Girish
Karnard). The central character of the film is Janaki (Smita Patil),
the widow of a worker. Janki in her solitude is an incarnation of
moral strength, a catalyst for her friends and co-workers to
liberate themselves. Her commitment to progress is repeatedly
exploited by those who love her. Forced by Amol Palekar to become
his accomplice in a plot to kill his father-in-law, she is made the
scapegoat when the family conflict escalates into a gang war.
Accusing Amol of manipulating her, she claims the forces of change
to be ‘faster than the fleeting wind’. Smita Patil gives an
intense performance that comes straight from her heart.