‘Nude’ review: Between the sublime and the banal

A still from ‘Nude’

A still from ‘Nude’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A unique idea falls prey to uneven execution on scre

There is no dearth of unique ideas when it comes to Marathi cinema. Be it Kaasav or Kaccha Limbu, Muramba or Chi Va Chi Sau Ka, a handful of Marathi filmmakers have been consistently venturing into unconventional zones, dealing with significant and often discomfiting issues.

Ravi Jadhav’s Nude also steps into a forbidden zone: the almost extinct world of nude modelling for art students and artistes.Yamuna (Kalyanee Mulay) leaves a philandering and abusive husband behind in the village to live with her aunt Chandrakka (Chhaya Kadam) who ostensibly works as a sweeper in Mumbai’s J.J. College of Arts but in reality has a covert, taboo profession on the side which keeps things going for her, and which she initiates Yamuna into.

The film comes with a troubled past. It was dropped by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting from the Indian Panorama at International Film Festival of India 2017 despite being selected as the opening film. Recently, a Jaipur based writer, Manisha Kulshreshtha accused the makers of plagiarising from her short story, 'Kalindi'.

At one level the film tries to demystify and destigmatise the profession for the lay viewer--that it isn’t exploitative, that the gaze of the artiste is not lascivious, that it’s all about enabling the students to understand the human anatomy. At another, it shows how voluntarily shedding clothes and sitting still for hours together may not be the easiest thing to do. Jadhav also uses the film to comment on the irrational outrage and increasing lack of freedom of expression in the society and country.

  • Director: Ravi Jadhav
  • Cast: Kalyanee Mulay, Chhaya Kadam, Om Bhutkar, Madan Deodhar
  • Run time: 112 minutes
  • Storyline: Yamuna leaves a philandering and abusive husband behind in the village and picks up a unique, taboo profession in Mumbai: nude modelling for art students

However, the most persuasive idea in the film for me is about a woman wresting control of her own body, to overcome shame and use it the way she wants to, for her own desires, needs and fulfillment than getting hemmed in by the familial and societal mores. The standout sequence is when Yamuna poses nude for the first time. Kalyanee Mulay captures the doubts, dilemmas and sense of shame leading on to an inner awareness very well, even as Jadhav shoots with distance, delicacy and dignity.

Somehow this strand doesn’t get explored to the fullest. The portrayal also gets problematic because even the seizing of the body by the woman is not celebrated as self-actualisation. Instead it gets sublimated by the righteous fact that the woman is doing it not for herself but for the family, and for her oaf of a son at that. The larger picture is that of a woman who suffers and sacrifices in silence, whose life is nothing more than a string of maudlin moments.

There is an unevenness of tone throughout the film, as though Jadhav wants to be poetic, subtle and oblique yet doesn’t want to let go of the inherent melodrama of traditional story-telling. There are some cliched lines about clothes covering the body (jism) but not the soul (rooh). The opening scenes with the philandering husband and the abusive marriage are seeped in excess. Things get repetitive and stretched and Jadhav loses grip and power in the second half with a simplistic nod to M.F. Hussain, token statement-making on freedom of expression and a downbeat, convoluted end with mixed messaging to boot. The stone thrown at the end in Ankur and Fandry had a unique subversive power. Nude attempts to go in a similar zone artistically but doesn’t have a strong enough point to make.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:47:41 PM |

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