Monday, July 02, 2007

The Unsung Auteurs of India

The Auteur Theory of film criticism, for the uninitiated, is a style of making movies in which the director becomes the author (yeah, you got it right, the word "Auteur" means "Author", and yes, since it is so esoteric sounding a film criticism theory, it's got to be French) of the movie. The movie bears the director's vision and his philosophy. Moreover, it is characterised by the Director gaining near complete control of the movie by doing multitasking, like being screenplay writer, music director etc. Most popularly known Auteurs are Truffaut, Godard, Eisentein, Tarkovsky, Lynch etc. These guys are supposed to be totally immersed in their movies and handling most of the processes of the collaborative effort that is named as film. In simple terms, an Auteur's movie has the Director as the hero in it. Not only does he call the shots, but the junta goes to the theatre because of the Director.

Some Indian directors who are given credit as Auteurs are Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal etc. Yeah, the Art Directors, you guessed it right!

However, it is my intention to bring to your notice some directors who, though working under the auspices of the Bollywood Film Industry, have managed to wield the title of Auteur successfully and quietly without being self righteous and sanctimonious about it.

The first name I propose is that of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, whose movies bore unmistakably a stamp of his own personality and his vision. Also he did have near total control of the movie, right from the screenplay/story to the cast. (Yes, I forgot to mention, another hallmark of an Auteur is the near same cast of characters he keeps repeating in many of his movies!). His cast included Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Amol Palekar, Rajesh Khanna, Utpal Dutta etc. Also, he worked mostly with Gulzar, SD Burman (and with RD after SD's death), Salil Chaudhary etc. I think film critics should take note of this fact and probably tag him an Auteur that he is.

Another name that comes to mind is that of Gulzar who remained in total control of his movies ranging from screenplay and story (which he writes mostly by himself (and why not? He is a Sahitya Akademi winner)) to the lyrics of all songs, he manages all things by himself. Frequently seen with the same cast/music directors/artists etc, he shows nearly all the hallmarks of Cinematic Auteurs including the extremely high quality of movies.

And then, we come to Vishal Bharadwaj who is the director of two of most powerful Hindi movies of all times (yes, I mean ALL times!)-MAQBOOL and OMKARA. He has made only three movies till now so statistics is against him in the putative proof of his stature as an Auteur, but given that he makes the music for the movies himself, frequently works with Gulzar (in fact all his four movies have Gulzar as lyricist), I think most of you will agree as his being a genuine auteur.

Other names that might be auteurs (but I'm not sure) are Madhur Bhandarkar, Ram Gopal Verma and maybe even Yash Chopra (???)

Well that's it for the day!

No comments: