Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s film ‘Blow Up’ was the inspiration for the classic ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.’

When Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni passed away on July 31 this year, the world mourned the loss of a filmmaking colossus. Winner of an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, Antonioni’s films are aesthetically complex, ambiguous works that pose difficult questions and defy conventional conclusions. Vague feelings, moods and ideas characterise his creative canvas, and his style is decidedly enigmatic.

Films such as ‘L’Avventura’ (1960) and ‘Il Deserto Roso’ (1964) placed him firmly in the roster of great directors. (Both films feature in the Homage section of IFFK). ‘L’Avventura’ created a sensation at the Cannes film festival in 1960. ‘Il Deserto rosso’ marked a turning point in his career: Antonioni’s shifting directions of interest compelled him to explore international markets and vigorously question the nature of photographic reality. This was also his first colour film.

‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’

But filmgoers in India have an unlikely reason to be grateful to this Italian master. One of the best comedies made in Indian cinema – ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ (JBDY) – was inspired by Antonioni’s ‘Blow Up’ (1966).

‘Blow-Up,’ Antonioni’s first film in English, was an engaging, provocative murder mystery that examined the existential nature of reality through photography.

A desensitised-to-life, nihilistic, high-fashion photographer in London, who lives a mid-60s life of excess, becomes bored with his lucrative career of glamour photography.

So he resorts to photographing, in documentary style, the seamy and sordid side of life in London. He takes candid photos in a deserted park of a lover’s tryst between a kerchief-wearing woman and a middle-aged, gray-haired man in a light-gray suit, little suspecting that he had accidentally obtained visual, criminal evidence of a murder.

‘JBDY’ starred Naseeruddin Shah, member of IFFK jury this year, and was Kundan Shah’s directorial debut financed by NFDC. The film was a satirical take on civic administration, the press, the police and big business houses.

It combined slapstick humour with social commentary in a manner that has yet to be replicated.

Two bumbling photographers Vinod Chopra (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir Mishra (Viveck Baswani) stumble upon the murder of police commissioner (Satish Shah) and capture it on film but in spite of repeated blow-ups of the photograph are unable to identify the killer.

This key sequence, which takes place in a park, was obviously inspired from Antonioni’s ‘Blow Up.’ In fact, the park where they click pictures of D’Mello’s murder is named Antonioni Park in the film, in a bow to the Italian master!

JBDY witnessed the coming-together of many inspired youngsters – Kundan Shah, Naseerudin Shah, editor Renu Saluja, cameraperson Binod Pradhan, Sudhir Mishra – to create an unparallel film in the black comedy genre.

Though not a commercial success when released in theatres in 1983, it has found a following and assumed cult status among film followers since.