Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cinema from the Perspective of the Director's Gender

This is one of the most raging topics of debate in media schools and the entertainment industry. Does the execution of a plot idea into celluloid get affected by the gender of the director? Personally I feel it is got to do more with the sensitivity of the director than his/her gender.

In this post I choose two directors, Mira Nair and Ketan Mehta.

Mira Nair entered the limelight with her debut movie "Salaam Bombay" in 1988. Some of her other popular movies are "Mississipi Masala," "Monsoon Wedding," and "The Namesake." An Indian born director settled in New York, her movies show the wide framework of human emotions and the different types of people who live in India. Her movies can neither be called commercial or art-house, she strikes a fine balance between the two and has achieved success with all her movies. Her last release "The Namesake" based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri with the same name is an excellent adaptation of the book and remains faithful to the original plot and idea. Brilliant performances by Tabu, Kal Penn and Irrfan Khan and excellent cinematography were an asset for the movie. The story shows the problems of immigration, conflicts of Indians who have settled abroad and the perennial problem of cross cultural identity conflict.

Ketan Mehta is a popular Indian director whose fame rests on two excellent movies "Bhavani Bhavai" and "Mirch Masala." His other movies have been commercial failures though his period drama "Mangal Pandey-The Rising" was critically acclaimed.

Mirch Masala titled as Spices for its international release starred Smitha Patil and Nassirudin Shah two of the finest artistes India has ever produced. A despotic tax collector, Subedar (Naseeruddin Shah), imposes his rule on a village. All the villagers except a protesting schoolteacher, try to make him happy by satisfying all his whims. The drama starts when the beautiful Sonbai (Smita Patil) is to be surrendered to the lecherous Subedar. She takes refuge in the courtyard of a spice factory run entirely by women. She is protected by an aged watchman who closes the gates to Subedar's men.

The ensuing conflict where Subedar attacks the factory and tries to rape Sonbai and how Sonbai fights him is excellently portrayed. The scene where everyone throws chilli powder on the Subedar is brilliantly shot and the raw emotions of fear, anger and lust are brilliantly portrayed.

Suppose Mira Nair had made "Spices" or Ketan Mehta had made"The Namesake" we can just imagine how the final product would be; but we can be certain that the final movie would be different. A woman director might perhaps not show a lot of violence on screen and use subdued shots to convey their ideas. A male director might show violence on screen directly or might examine the intricacies of the human mind in added detail and show it on screen in a different manner.

Gurudutt India's finest director who took his own life created poetry on screen with his classic "Pyassa." The lighting scheme the wide angle shots, zoom and fade on Waheeda Rehman, choice of songs; no woman director can do justice to the portrayal of a man who has lost his love or has been rejected by his lover.

So instead of arguing on the gender of the director it is better to appreciate good cinema.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.