The cinema of Mani Kaul

Jul 06, 2013, 00:48 IST | Hassan M Kamal

Some called his films different, others inaccessible, but for filmmaker Mani Kaul, cinema was nothing less than a religion, one, which he meditated over throughout his life. Today, his second death anniversary will see the release of the English translation of the book, Uncloven Space: Mani Kaul In Conversation With Udayan Vajpeyi, followed by a special preview of Riyaaz, a tribute film made by his assistant and translator of the book Gurvinder Singh. We reproduce a few excer

First brush with Mumbai (pg 123)
(Kaul came to Bombay for the first time at the age of seventeen after some disagreements with his father about his career. He wanted to join cinema, but his father wanted him to join IAS. So, out of his stubbornness he arrived in Mumbai, where he stayed with his uncle Mahesh Kaul, who ran the production company Anupam Chitra.)

Mani Kaul with cameraman Venu, and assistant director Reena Mohan on the sets of the film Mati Manas. Pics Courtesy/Lalitha Krishna

I had not even finished college and I had arrived there (Bombay), by being stubborn. I would go to Ranjit Studios with him (Mahesh Kaul). In those days he was making: Sautela Bhai with Guru Dutt. Sometimes I went to the studio. Sometimes I stayed at home. Sometimes I would wander along the seashore. I saw the sea for the first time, and double decker buses. It felt very strange.

Mita Vashisht in Siddheshwari

His first film (pgs 119-120): Helen of Troy
I was twelve and a half years old by then. I saw Helen of Troy with my spectacles on, and I still remember the main character in it, Paris. And Helen of Troy was played by an Italian actress Rosana Podesta. I can still remember her name. I went quite crazy…I used to go to the theatre (Polo Victory in Jaipur) again and again, to see that film…at that moment I decided that I should become an actor.

His influences: Dostoyevsky, Bresson, Matisse, Tarkovsky (pgs 11-17, 130-133)
In the European canon, I am attracted to four figures: Dostoyevsky, Tarkovsky, Matisse and Robert Bresson. Despite being very different from each other and the differences are quite vast these four are terribly important to me. I feel as if there is something for me in these four... With all of them, Dostoyevsky especially…Everything that Dostoyevsky wrote, each work has a different style.

Uncloven Space Mani Kaul In Conversation With Udayan Vajpeyi, translated from Hindi by Gurvinder Singh, Quiver Books, `500.

This is another thing that appeals to me. I don't want to work in any one particular style. It's a great style of Dostoyevsky, and Matisse also, that they never made style a primary concern. About Bresson: When I came out after watching Bresson’s film (Pickpocket), I was in a state of enchantment so strange that I couldn’t explain it to you. I was sitting and a leaf moved and I noticed that. My way of looking had changed. It was such a jolt for me. I thought this is a man who actually sees, and everyone else is creating drama(...)

His method of filmmaking (pgs 17-21)
If my films are unlike the rest, the primary reason could be that my shooting is absolutely unrelated to the script, the editing is absolutely unrelated to the footage, and the sound is not related to the edited material...whatever I shoot, I get everything printed...People usually separate the OK and NG takes. They only print what is good and leave out what isn’t…

But I cannot work without the entire lot. I print it all. With the NG shots, which we call ‘Not Good’ shots, I do not even consider them NG, because whatever I have shot, whenever we have rolled the camera, and whatever has got exposed and captured, all of this material is useful. There is nothing that is OK or NG. (Extracted with permission from the author and the translator)

Mani Kaul's Movies
Uski Roti, 1969
Ashadh Ka Ek Din, 1971
Duvidha, 1973 (winner of National Film Award for Best Direction)
Ghashiram Kotwal, 1979
Satah Se Uthata Admi, 1980
Dhrupad, 1982
Mati Manas, 1984
Siddheshwari, 1989
Nazar, 1989
Idiot, 1992
The Cloud Door, 1995
Naukar Ki Kameez, 1999
Bojh, 2000
Ik Ben Geen Ander (I Am No Other) Netherlands, 2002
A Monkey’s Raincoat, 2005 (Netherlands)

Kaul wanted to see everything
Kaul was handicapped with poor eyesight from a young age and spent most of his childhood in what he describes as a dream. When he was 11 that he wore spectacles for the first time the clarity of the world, he says, changed his life.

Screening of tribute film, Riyaaz
The book launch will be followed by screening of the film Riyaaz, a tribute by Kaul’s assistant Gurvinder Singh. The film is made from mobile phone clips that Kaul handed over to Singh before his death.

On Today, 11 am onwards AT Films Division, Dr G Deshmukh Marg, Peddar Road.
Call 23510461

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