Riding the new wave

FOREGROUNDING Writers N. Manu Chakravarthy and Umesh Kulkarni through their respective books on N. Lakshminarayan open up a forgotten chapter in film history

FOREGROUNDING Writers N. Manu Chakravarthy and Umesh Kulkarni through their respective books on N. Lakshminarayan open up a forgotten chapter in film history   | Photo Credit: Photo: Murali Kumar K.

Two books on filmmaker N. Lakshminarayan helps one look at the history of Kannada cinema in a new perspective

The history of cinema has often been discussed as sequential, as something that moves from one period to the other. Even when individual filmmakers and their works are discussed, they often get regimented into a specific era and meanings to their works are often drawn as responses to a particular moment in history. “Framing the New Wave: Locating the significance of N. Lakshminarayan” by culture critic N. Manu Chakravarthy - released during the Biffes recently - treads the path of philosophy of history, as it tries to locate the film maker N. Lakshminarayan not simply in a particular age, but by mapping his thinking through time. Hence, time, in his work, significantly acquires a dual existence; not mutually exclusive. Therefore, you also find the author recording him as the progenitor of the New Wave in Kannada Cinema, though chronological history sees its beginning elsewhere.

In recognising Lakshminarayan as the harbinger of a new aesthetics, the book opens up fresh readings into the history of Kannada cinema. In his Preface to the book, Manu Chakravarthy sees Lakshminarayan as a filmmaker who “resisted the tyranny of Western epistemology”, and in becoming an embodiment of such protest, he lays the foundation for many future filmmakers, who continue to keep the tradition alive.

Lakshminarayan, refraining from the politics of the industry and the star-centric nature of films, evolved an idiom and narrative style entirely of his own. For this unusual filmmaker, Satyajit Ray was a major influence, not just in terms of cinematic techniques, but also his pre-occupation with the middle class. His narrative stripped the hero of his larger-than-life image, and spoke of dimensions and truths, hitherto untold. It pushed new thresholds.

The book discusses in detail the six films that the auteur made, constantly trying to explore the intense obligation the filmmaker had to his art as well as his beliefs. The visual image was never separate from his politics. Hence, in Lakshminarayan one sees a filmmaker who believed that cinema was a director’s medium. The other filmmaker who believed in this just as strongly was Puttanna Kanagal. Though the author draws out several meeting grounds in the philosophy of the two filmmakers, he lucidly expounds that their representation of the inner drama was divergent.

It is sad that Laskhminarayan, like many others, goes unnoticed as an important filmmaker in the Kannada cinema tradition. As noted film maker Girish Kasaravalli rightly observes in his blurb to the book: “It is not a matter of surprise that Lakshminarayan’s unique style that was different from the stereotypes of his times did not gain any recognition.” The book makes important inroads into Lakshminarayan’s works.

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“NL – Eradu Mukha”, Darpana-Darshana by Umesh Kulkarni, is a book on Lakshminarayan in Kannada, released with the English one. The two books make for a good companion study; in fact, they make a perfect example of a complete study on a film maker. While Umesh Kulkarni’s book – himself a national-award winning editor and a student of FTII, Pune — speaks in detail about the craft of NL, in a manner typical of a student of cinema, Manu Chakravarthy delves into the philosophical concerns of the filmmaker. Umesh Kulkarni’s long association with the filmmaker also gives the reader an up-close view of the personality of filmmaker, apart from the biographical details.

For Umesh Kulkarni, Lakshminarayan is a path breaker. He was someone who came from the studio culture and could think “new” within the infrastructure. Unlike those from the Navya tradition who rejected infrastructure, Lakshminarayan — like M.R. Vittal, Geetapriya and others — used the conventional methods to evolve a unique idiom of his own. If the section “Kattale Belaku” forms an analysis of the filmmaker as a professional, Kappu-Bilupu delineates him as an individual. These two sections however, do not see the two as contrasting personas, but seek to expose the overlaps – as one extending into another. This filmmaker, who had technical excellence, was also a person with serious academic pursuits. This bestowed upon his films a texture so special.

The most interesting part of the book is the writer talking of NL becoming his own limitation. He sees this as one of the reasons that prevented NL from making a foray into the world of colour films, even when they were offered to him.

Both these books are a must for students of serious cinema. They are published by Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy. For copies, call 080-26711785.


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