The next mini-season of Hindi films on Channel 4 later this month will feature two films by Rajastani director Mani Kaul.
The first is 1983’s Dhrupad, which is set among the fortresses and palaces of north-west India and showcases a number of the country’s notable classical musical talents.
Dhrupad is one of the oldest surviving forms of Hindustani (or Indian) classical music. Treading a line between art and experimental cinema, Kaul focuses on the Dagar family, whose association with Dhrupad goes back several generations.
That film is followed by Duvidha, a1973 film, later re-made in 2005 as the Shahrukh Khan-staring Paheli, that tells the story of a ghost who falls in love with a new bride.
When her husband goes away on business for five years the day after their marriage the ghost takes the husband’s form to live with the bride.
Another art-house film from Kaul, Duvidha led to the director receiving the 1974 National Film Award for Best Direction (joining past recipients Satyajit Ray – 6 times, Mrinal Sen – 4 times, and Gautam Ghosh – 2 times).
There’s not much easily-accessible information about Kaul online, with both Wikipedia and Imdb.com being rather sparse. But I was interested to note that he studied at the Film and Television Institute of India under Bengali director Ritwik Ghatak, whose career included writing the screenplay for the classic ‘50s Hindi film Madhumati and directing a number of Bengali films, among them Titash Ekti Nodir Nam.
So, Duvidha certainly sounds interesting from what I’ve read about it, though I’ll find it hard to shake thoughts of Paheli from my mind.
Channel 4 showed that film a few years ago as part of a SRK season and it was not one of the standout pictures featured. In fact it added to my impression at the time – now long gone, thanks in no small part to Chak de! India, and Om Shanti Om – that Shahrukh was too smarmy for his own good.