Debut author Sengupta unpacks eight films by the acclaimed Indian director Girish Kasaravalli in this book of criticism.
Since breaking onto the film scene with his now classic 1977 film Ghatashraddha, Kasaravalli has been one of the country’s major filmic voices for decades. Working in the Kannada-language cinema of his native Karnataka state, Kasaravalli was able to transcend the label of “regional language films” applied to anything outside of the Mumbai-produced Bollywood films to win accolades in India and abroad. Even so, Kasaravalli remains a relatively obscure figure in world cinema, making experimental, politically charged works that have often been overshadowed by the flashier fare of his contemporaries. Here, Sengupta provides a beginner’s guide to the artist, offering insight into the eight films that “best demonstrate Kasaravalli’s vision and temperament as a filmmaker.” He opens with some brief biographical material, explaining how the director emerged (and, in Sengupta’s view, largely broke) from the various literary and cinematic movements that dominated Indian art in the decades after independence in 1947. Most of the book deals directly with the movies themselves: the aforementioned Ghatashraddha, Tabarana Kathe (1986), Mane (1989), Thaayi Sahiba (1997), Nayi Neralu (2006), Gulabi Talkies (2008), Kanasembo Kudureyaneri (2010), and Kurmavatara (2012). Sengupta makes no secret of his admiration for Kasaravalli, and the book is less a critical study than it is a primer for diving into the director’s work. Each essay provides some background on the film and its source materials, followed by a lengthy, scene-by-scene account of the plot. However, there’s strikingly little analysis. It’s as though Sengupta believes that Kasaravalli’s works (or, rather, his descriptions of Kasaravalli’s works) speak for themselves. Oddly, they do: Sengupta is a fine writer, and his accounts of the films are so attuned to the emotion and symbolism of Kasaravelli’s visuals that they function almost as self-contained short stories. That said, the purpose of this book remains somewhat unclear; a person who hasn’t seen the films will be unlikely to read this book, but one who has seen them will gain little from reading it.
A well-written introduction to the works of an Indian auteur.