Ghashiram Kotwal. Mani Kaul, Kamal Swaroop, K Hariharan, Saeed Mirza. 1976.
The plot of the original play with its sexual obsessions and Brahminical conspiracies and corruption in Peshwa Pune lies buried deep somewhere inside here. This collectively directed play turned film is staged meticulously in ambiguous, mannered disjointed sequences with narrators directly addressing the camera, long whirling takes in desolate Deccan landscapes, intertitles framing the sequences in history, and Peshwa men swaying to their own music, or that of a lavani dancer. While, Tendulkar’s text does not really ever step outside the labyrinth of Brahminical intrigue, the film takes on more, framing the story in the political intrigues between the competing powers, and also bring nagging up the caste question more directly. One scene critiques the adoption of Dalit icons Namdev and Tukaram as religious figures. Released just after Indira gandhi’s emergency was called off, and made during those years, it is easy to see it as critique however esoteric and abstract.
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