Bombay Showcase

Theatre of the audacious

Director Kranti Kanade’s (right) CRD is set in the world of college theatre. It is at one level a linear narrative leading from the preparations for a play up to the final competition.  

he audacity and cheekiness of CRD is unmistakable. These are the adjectives that come to mind in trying to pin down a film that otherwise refuses to fall into any defined, pre-existing box. Right from the “ Un Film De Kranti Kanade” in the opening titles (is it celebrating or mocking the film’s own aspiration to arthouse French cinema, you wonder) to thanking the “liberal fathers” in the closing titles (for putting the money/faith in the experimental filmmaking), there’s a hell of a lot more in between that borders on the edgy, outrageous and impudent.

It’s hard to tell what CRD is all about, right from the very title. In fact, in the interest of not spoiling it for the readers we will let most of it remain a mystery and just say that it’s a film that escapes categorisation. It is likely to have the world either love it or hate it but certainly not ignore it.

Set in the world of college theatre, The Purushottam Karandak inter-college theatre festival to be precise, it is at one level a linear narrative leading from the preparations for a play up to the final competition. And yet what happens in the middle makes for a completely surreal text in which the linearity of time itself collapses and multiple points of view and ideologies play off against each other. “There is an outer linearity within which I have created a circular design,” says Kranti Kanade, the film’s director. What you get is a dense and complicated narrative, which throws open more questions than offering easy answers or resolving issues. “My job as an artiste is to lay the tapestry, simplistic solutions are meaningless and juvenile,” he says, especially if one has inherited an extremely complex society to live in. The reason why he admires a film like Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court is precisely because “it observes the complex tapestry of life”.

The Hindi-English CRD is written by Yuva Sahitya Akademi Award winner Dharmakirti Sumant. At the centre of it is Chetan who wants to be a writer than an actor and starts his own motley group as a rebellion against his tyrannical acting professor. “It explores the fascism and fierce competition in the world of arts. It is about our whole obsession with winning and success,” says Kanade.

The misfit boy mirrors Kanade’s own unpredictability as a filmmaker. A product of the UCLA and the FTII, Kanade’s thesis film, Chaitra , won five national film awards and he has earlier made an English film, Gandhi of the Month, with the legendary Harvey Keitel and Neeraj Kabi. CRD is nothing if not unconventional. He calls it a “personal artistic exploration”. A lot of thought has gone into the whole craft of filmmaking, not just in practice but in theory too. He claims to have broken down the rigidity of the whole process of filmmaking itself to rebuild it from scratch.

He considers the bound script as the biggest destructive factor about contemporary filmmaking. “The script is not sacred. New cinema has to be free of it. In spaces like Instagram, non-professionals are bringing more poetry to their work than professionals who work with bound scripts,” he says. So what is the way out? Master the art of screenwriting but become celibate when it comes to recreating visually what’s on the pages; look out for the unknown and the magical that is not there in the words. The idea was to pare down things, reach the essential simplicity; unlearn the craft to create what he calls the “virgin visuals”. Kanade cast the film and developed it further along with his actors, immediately after writing the first draft of CRD . “Quite often we end up making the film that is on paper and not in our minds.” He claims to have not looked at the paper but what was in front of his eyes: the actors and their improvisations and suggestions. He claims having given them complete space and freedom. “I never stood between them and the script.”

Daring performances

As a filmmaker, Kanade is outrageous in the way he plays with animation and vox pop format, making references to French philosopher, historian and critic Michel Foucault, popular Hindi films such as Deewar , and the figure of the mother in Hindi films. “I don’t want to stick to the fear of isms,” he says. He calls CRD a hybrid form. The approach if at all is maximalist encompassing varied genres and narratives. And yet within the expressionistic, impressionistic arcs there are some conventional, realistic moments, like the fine piece naturalistic acting in the theatre workshop scenes.

In fact, the film has some terrific, daring performances particularly from the surprisingly confident debutant Saurabh Saraswat in the lead role, the lovely Mrinmayee Godbole as the muse and Vinay Sharma as the tyrant professor.

Kande handles sex scenes beautifully, sculpturally rather, inspired from European nudist art. “What else can love be other than poetic?” he says when you express your appreciation. But it’s something that we have not been able to tackle well, inherently so, he feels.

“Our biggest problem is self-censorship of our own hearts and minds. We have to overcome the fear as an artiste,” he says, to boldly do what we want to do. It would have been liberating then to have actors who could walk his talk.

With CRD, Kanade is testing himself, his actors and the audience as well. It gives hope that gutsy cinema can exist in our moribund minds and society.

A subversive but non-sensational film, a beguiling film that flummoxes, teases and confounds, CRD is also a whole lot of fun. It opens at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles this week. I will be curious to see how it travels from there.



Kanade considers

the bound script the biggest destructive force of contemporary filmmaking



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