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New wave, Old wave
She is much-married but turns up alone at his shabby bachelor pad anyway. There isn't a shred of scepticism or inhibition in her as she offers him solace. She washes his clothes as if to get rid of the stains of their past together. He waits for her, expecting unreserved love. When she rises to leave, she pulverises him with her parting line: "Main tumhe tumhari aukaat dikhane aayi hoon (I came to show you your place). "
This scene serves as nemesis of the character 'Dev' in Anurag Kashyap's gutsy, intelligent and visually delightful interpretation of Devdas in Dev. D. She is Paro of the Microsoft Windows generation that derives solace only in upgradation when the system (read relationship ) is static. The spunky Sweety of Kaminey is no different from the vengeful Dolly of Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! who tells Lucky when he spurns her: "Main tujhe pasand nahi hoon na. Tujhe Sonal pasand hain na. Gentry hain wo. Aukaat mein rahe (You don't like me, do you? You like Sonal, isn't it, because she is classy? Watch it. )
These are today's women. Vociferous, voracious and voluble. These directors have been able to create an audience not only among the urbane and educated intelligentsia but also among average cinema-goers.
So, how different are these directors from the first wave of art cinema directors - Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Sai Paranjpe, Saeed Akhtar Mirza and others who have been path-creators, non-conformists and whose works have an enduring value?
For today's new wave directors, cinema is more about personal expression. Though it can be argued that cinema has to be a means of personal expression, for these directors it borders on the biographical. Their films have copious doses of angst, disillusionment, earthy humour and natural contempt for dogmas and rituals. For instance, when the character Ransa in Gulaal is asked to withdraw from the election of the student council, he retorts: "Tere baap ne agar sahi waqt par withdraw kiya hota toh tu aaj yahaan hota kya (if your father had withdrawn at the right time would you have been here)? " Lines like these manage to connect not just with the urban youth but also small town audiences.
These directors don't try to ram any social message down the viewer's throat but they do use smart dialogue writing to convey their political and social viewpoints. For instance, in Kaminey, when Tashi (Shahid Kapoor) emerges from the scuffle for a diamondstuffed guitar he says to mafia don Bhope Bhau (Amol Gupte): "I am not America. " A line that suggests the character does not intend to meddle with the affairs of others.
Contemporary films, however, lack the detailing of films made by directors such as Shyam Benega and Govind Nihalani. Take, for instance, Benegal's Ankur. From the fertility rituals to the scenes where Anant Nag shows revulsion for his own weakness, every scene is intricately crafted. Benegal is a South Mumbai man but he creates the rural milieu with great ease. These directors may bring their observations into their films but socially they are far removed from the contexts of their films. This brought a great deal of objectivity to their films. Bhumika, Ardh Satya, and Sparsh had a certain quietude about them and this gave the audience a chance to participate, assimilate and as the story progressed, even empathise with certain characters.
Also these directors worked with a team of specialists. They used directors like Vijay Tendulkar and Satyadev Dubey who had a strong grip on literature and were conscious of the common man's frailties. In Govind Nihalani's Vijeta when a kid is being beaten up for stealing and his mother is pleading for mercy, the character played by Rekha tells her son: I should never be in this situation because of you.
The commercial leap
However, these films captivated only the urban intelligentsia. Today's new wave directors, on the other hand, are able to produce a certain degree of meaningful cinema under the commercial ambit.
Vishal Bharadwaj makes thought-provoking films like Maqbool and Omkara, and also more crowd pleasing ones like Kaminey and Ishqiya. Kashyap directs films like Dev. D and Gulaal, but also writes films like Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, and Paisa Vasool. They are not non-conformists in the purest sense. They follow what craftsman Martin Scorsese once said: You make one film for the studio and one for your personal creative satisfaction.
Some cinema critics accused the first wave of non-conformists of self-indulgence. A case in point is Mani Kaul. In his films Ashadh Ka Ek Din and Uski Roti, the director dubbed the main actor's voice with his own. In a 1992 Filmfare interview when asked about this, he says in dubbing the main actor's voice with his own he could establish a direct connection with the audience.
There was a certain theatricality in the works of early alternate directors. In Albert Pinto Gussa Kyun Aata Hai, Satish Shah and his gang loot a rich businessman's warehouse and in the midst of it, the gang bursts into a satirical song on the rotten system. It may be argued that since most actors in new wave cinema were graduates from film institutes and also had theatre experience, the eagerness to be different pushed them to bring theatricality in to their cinema.
Modern films have references to the works of American and European filmmakers. In Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, when Paresh Rawal's character chides Lucky for going against him, Dibakar Banerjee pays a tribute to the Funny Guy scene in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. Paresh Rawal's character, after spitting out a jovial line, asks: "Hansa kyun?" Kashyap has been open about the inspiration for Dev. D's poster - Luis Bunuel's masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.
A lot of new wave films today are obviously 'inspired' by foreign masters. In Gangs of Wasseypur, Sardar Khan's assassination reminds us of the killing of Sonny in Godfather. Perhaps some day when these directors will have evolved an entirely original filmmaking idiom they can claim to have created masterpieces.
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