Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gaman (1978)

Muzzafar Ali’s first film, Gaman, is an effort that, at one level, delineates the chasm between the India of the villages, and the India ruled by urbanity. At another level, it portrays the multitude of different worlds that inhabit the urban fold. The film keeps oscillating between two starkly shot geographic settings throughout its duration; Kotwara, a small village in Uttar Pradesh, and Mumbai, the quintessential metropolis, simmering with a lure that is almost Pied-Piper-esque. The lead character, essayed by a tremendously understated Farookh Sheikh, migrates to the big city from this native village of his, in search for a living, leaving behind a newly-wedded wife and an ailing mother. This migration (or Gaman), is his last resort, much like how it is for thousands of his ilk. How his life first interacts, and later merges, with the all-encompassing landscape of Mumbai, and how he constantly tries to make peace with the guilt of having left his family behind, while all the time trying to seek redemption in this choice made by him, is what the film is all about, at least on the surface. But the director has ensured that deeper connotations are implied by giving a very unique treatment to the screenplay, where instead of focusing on the affairs of just the main leads, he has created a mesh of similarly themed stories of human survival, which suffuse into each other, and construct an ensemble. And yet the handling is minimalistic, and in most of the frames the emotions are more explicit through the visuals, than through the words spoken by the characters.

The movie is also an excellent example of crowd-sourcing and how ‘real’ people, places, and locations have been used in the narrative (The director duly metions the natives of Kotwara in the credit roll). In fact, it is hard to find a frame which looks inauthentic or which might have been shot on a set or in a studio. Mumbai too has been shot painstakingly, with much love, and for anyone familiar with the city’s terrains, the cinematography of the movie is reason enough to give the movie a watch. The language, grammar, and dialect of the words and the music of the film is rooted in realism and is full of references from history, and especially that from the history of Islam, for the lead characters are Muslim, and their native village, as in the film, has a sizeable Muslim population. The practices observed during Muharram at the village of Kotwara have been shot guerilla style and are depicted unequivocally. In a poignant moment from the film, the lead character gets caught in a frenetic Maharashtrian celebration, and is promptly reminded of the Muharram communal mourning back at his village. This is perhaps another way to bring to fore the intermingling of cultures, which the director portrays, not just by setting his film in the melting pot of all humanity that is Mumbai, but also by relegating the religious identities of his characters to the background by treating them in a very matter of fact manner, which in itself is very refreshing. The songs too are reflective of this timeless convergence that is perhaps the most defining feature of Indian socio-cultural fabric; the music (by Jaidev) is based on our ‘Hindustani’ tradition and has a classical base with the lyrics in both Hindi and Urdu. Half of the songs are set against Smita Patil’s incredibly expressive eyes in the backdrop. She hardly has any dialogue to speak in the film, and yet she says a lot in each and every frame she is present in. 

Signing off with the song ‘Seene Mein Jalan’, which is the perhaps the best remembered song from the movie… 

P.S.- Nana Patekar has a character role in the movie, while Satish Shah also appears in a scene.


  1. Hi Piyush! It is really great to surf on your blog! I would like to thank you for sharing these movies with us.

    You have described most of them very detailed...i can feel that you watched them like 'studies'.

    My request is...this blog should be translated into Hindi also, so many fans can read it and watch these movies. I will assure you that your blog will reach to thousands of us!

    Thank you so much again!

  2. Hi Deepak! Sorry for the delayed reply- I have been a bit caught up recently. Thank you so much for the appreciation. I am both humbled and encouraged by your praise. I would love to translate all these 'studies' into Hindi and would love it that more people get exposed to all these films.

  3. Hi, Thank you for your reply!

    I am assure you that the Hindi version will go to more people. I am associated with some Hindi bloggers and Hindi forums, where people are digging for these kind of films.
    The only problem is language. Frankly, my English is also not as good as a reader's should be. So I also avoid to read English blogs. Why we don't have articles, blog, websites, fb page on Cinema in Hindi?

    Kindly provide us your articles in Hindi too!

    See You!

    1. Thank you for wanting me to contribute to your forums. I will definitely get in touch if I manage to do a satisfactory English to Hindi translation of my write-ups. Will try for sure :)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hi there again! As you said in your articles and imdb review, you like Khushboo and Parichay very much...right?
    They were so realistic and fresh kind of Moives.

    But these days 'realistic movies' being so dark, thanks to Mr. Anurag Kahyap.

    I have just stop watching new hollywood and bollowood movies these years. Can't see the same, repeating movie elements again and again.

    I just planned to see Virrappan with my brother as my b'day treat. But in theatre we released we are at wrong time. But after 15 minute we could not leave our sits. We seen that movie and became huge fans.

    Can u guess the movie name?