Jun 13, 2011

Paanch (2003) (Dir- Anurag Kashyap): Movie Review

Directed by Anurag Kashyap
At the outset, it’d be in order to mention that this is the well-known theatrically unreleased film that was in the news (in 2003 and afterwards) over the ethical exceptions that the Censor Board of India had taken to it while denying it permission to release. It held that the film "glorifies violence; it shows the modus operandi of a crime (killing of a police officer); it shows excessive use of drugs; it has double meaning dialogues (with sexual undertones); it has no positive characters; it does not carry a social message".

That episode resulted in further intensification of the lasting antagonism that marked (and continues to mark) the relationship between iconoclastic brigands of Indian cinema (with director Anurag Kashyap at the vanguard) and the government-appointed sentinels of public morality who run the Censor Board.

It was primarily through p2p torrent networks and file-hosting sites like Dingora that ‘Paanch’ trickled into the  audiovisual precincts of movie aficionados and elicited reactions that spanned the spectrum from disturbing/disgusting to captivating/thrilling. It has since then developed a sort of cult following among fans of the ‘psychological thriller’ genre.

The movie itself is a story of unapologetic evilness and unfettered debauchery and most of all a psychological revelation that unfolds as a chaotic sequence of events in the entangled lives of five individuals... who live on the fringes of social morality and discover (with delight) in violent sadomasochistic self-destruction an accessible means of self-realization.

In giving up, treacherous step by treacherous step, the social fiction of goodness and embracing ruinous crime they discover a seductive freedom of the soul… a primal condition that allowed for (and indeed drew forth) a most authentic, albeit disturbing, response to the fact of existence in a hostile world of urban ambitions, transient fame and chronic estrangement.

The protagonist of the movie (Luke - played by KK Menon) is one of the most convincingly frightening and psychologically well-constructed characters in all of Hindi cinema.
  The script is cogently carried forward by the development, definition and motivation of this character. The plot consists essentially of Luke’s psycho-socio-pathology and his domination of the will of the four other characters… a domination that eventually sucked all of them into a spiral of heinous crime and moral degenartion that kept their existences constantly hinged on the edge of egregious bloodshed (and frequently precipitated the same).  To think that the times they had together as drug-stealing socially-shunned impecunious musicians were the actually the best they ever had is to betray some sign of how dark their lives were.

Amongst the secondary characters, of particular note is Shuile (played by Tejaswini Kohlapure) who discovers a taste for evil most serendipitously… but goes on to unhesistantly accommodate seduction, manipulation, intrigue and cunning in her repertory of sin.

I have to say though, the denouement of the drama suffers a debutant directors’ capitulation in face of the conventional need to impose a closure on a story that might have been better left open-ended. The movie ends on note which  is somewhat redemptive and life-affirming but mostly a clear reflection of the makers’ desistance to sink further into the dark recesses of human psyche which have otherwise been prodigiously explored more intrepidly than ever before in modern Hindi cinema.

Anurag Kashyap is genius. He employs the visual medium in its fullness and enhances the cinematic literacy of the viewer. The soundtrack is awesome too. A gem of a flick that ought to have released theatrically and  celebrated for its contribution to the coming of age of Hindi cinema.

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