chapter  3
16 Pages

The Indian New Wave

WithIra Bhaskar

At a rare screening of Mani Kaul’s Ashad ka ek Din (1971), as the limpid, luminescent images of K.K. Mahajan’s camera unfolded and flowed past on the screen, and the grave tones of Mallika’s monologue communicated not only her deep pain and the emptiness of her life, but a weighing down of the self,1 a sense of the excitement that in the 1970s had been associated with a new cinematic practice communicated itself very strongly to some in the auditorium. The occasion was a commemorative retrospective to honor Mani Kaul;2 the four-hundred-seat auditorium was almost full, and there seemed a terrible irony in this reception of his work after his premature death from cancer in July 2011. This screening of Ashad ka ek Din forty years after it was made not only underlined its almost non-existent circulation in the period in between, but also the unavailability of most films of the ‘new cinema’ or the New Wave movement3 made during the 1970s-80s that have remained out of reach despite the present digital revolution. Ashad ka ek Din represents not only the radical, experimental edge of the Indian New Wave, but also the destiny of a number of its films that while made successfully were not released. Mani Kaul’s death, the obituaries hailing him as a ‘pioneer’ of the ‘new Indian cinema’ (Gupta 2011: 10), and the commemorative retrospectives seemed to bring into sharp focus the enthusiastic investment in cinematic experimentation not only by the high priests of an avant-garde experimental cinema-emblematically represented by Kaul himself and Kumar Shahani, but also by several others of the movement.