Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Significance of Kaminey

I haven't seen Kaminey (although I have seen the other film with which it is compared, Satya) but did the next best thing, which is to read a critique of it in EPW. Reading reviews is a very sensible way of sounding knowledgeable about movies without having to take the trouble of seeing them- I practise this technique very effectively with books as well.

The author sees Kaminey as marking a new trend in Bollywood- the celebration or even glorification of criminality:
Urban criminals, until the mid-1990s, were not glamorous figures in Hindi popular cinema, and only people led astray (as in Deewar 1975) became criminals. The film that changed this was perhaps Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya (1999). Satya appeared “realistic” but had a discourse interpretable in the context of the economic liberalisation initiated by P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh in 1991-92, which also marked the end of Nehruvian socialism. Law enforcement has been treated in different ways by Hindi cinema but Satya was the first film to treat the police as though they were no different from a private agency, made stronger by their indifference to the law.

......There are key dissimilarities between Satya and Kaminey and the chief among these is that while in Satya there was still a world outside the underworld, in Kaminey the underworld is the world and it would appear that everyone is somehow implicated in criminality.
In other words, the film takes the line that not only do you get away with flouting the law, it is almost a condition for success in the world. To do otherwise is to be pretty dumb. Only a complete disregard for law and scruple can produce success. It's painful, I guess, to see this portrayed but is the reality very different?

The author highlights the fact that the movie has been more successful in urban areas than elsewhere and that it has been better received in theEnglish media than in the language press. He interprets this to mean that its values are more reflective of those of the middle and upper classes than the lower classes. He links the decline in values to the way economic reforms have been pursued:
Even if one concedes that freeing the economy from the shackles of control was a good thing, it would have been appropriate at that point to strengthen enforcement in areas where intervention was still necessary. This, unfortunately, did not happen and India today is an enforcement nightmare. But it is apparently a nightmare that allows certain classes to dream.
What gets the author's goat is the portrayal of the law enforcement agencies:
The portrayal of the law in Kaminey is unprecedented in Indian cinema. The anti-narcotics squad functions as the handmaiden of drug-runners and when the police arrive at the final exchange, the criminals due to be “arrested” announce on the street their open offers to the men in khaki – 25% of the take increasing gradually to 33% – and thereby make the police waver. This is far more extreme than even Satya because policemen in Kaminey are only acting for themselves, and not even nominally engaged in enforcing the law.
Again, just a case of cinema mirroring life, uh? To those who think Bollywood is being a trifle too cynical, I would say this: Bollywood caught up with gangster politicians and the nexus between politics and crime long before the rest of the media did. It does seem to me that Vishal Bharadwaj, the director, has his finger on the pulse of reality.


Pranam said...

I have seen the movie and I feel that that the author ( critic ) has gone too far. In the interviews to the media the director of the movie mentioned that this is a "masala flick". A thesis on the movie and a thesis on the article is going a bit too far. It is just a movie.

Anonymous said...

Well, I suggest you do the best thing: see the film. And, yes I did, and its not even Masala Flick. Its simply degradation of life.

Paresh said...

If anything, the film depicts the reality. All of us are crooks, its just the level of crookedness that varies. Some may be 100% crooks, the good may be 5% crooks. 0% level of crookedness does not exist.

Unknown said...

i am in firm agrrement with the writer of article. though embedded in some degree of reality, movies like KAMINEY and SATYA make passage to the decaying social reality in the mode of CELEBRATION. standing on the platform of CREATIVE LIBERTY,film makers are ought to strech this form of liberty to double their finances.they have to run their manufacturing unit and labelling it as CLOSE TO REALITY product brings the focus on them. if director are so affirmative to mirror the reality, then they shoudnt put the content subservient to the galaxy of those who externalise the contents on screen(as is evident in case of kaminey). apart from decaying society, there are large no. of other social realities which waits their turn to get the 70mm screen.
author of the article deserve applause.
dr. gaurav sharma/chandigarh