Friday 29 April 2011

Ardh Satya (Half Truth) [1983]

Govind Nihalani is renowned for infusing realism in cinema (which some like calling "parallel cinema") – a rare trait among makers of Hindi movies, and Ardh Satya ranks among his most well-known films. Based in the mega-city of Bombay, the movie, which derived its name from a terrific poem that is recited in one of the most memorable scenes, is gritty, hard-hitting and deeply existentialist in nature. The film’s protagonist, Anant Velankar (exceptionally played by Om Puri), wanted to pursue literature. However his father (played by another doyen of Hindi cinema, Amrish Puri), was a constable, and literally forced him, through his towering and abrasive personality, to become a cop. A no-nonsense person by nature, the Anant refuses to take shit from anybody, and hence it’s only a matter of time before he goes into head-on, self-destructive collision with a powerful local mafia (another tremendous performance, this time by debutante Sadashiv Amrapurkar). Meanwhile he also starts developing a touching relationship with Jyotsna (delicately played by Smitha Patil), a soft-spoken lecturer in Literature. The film is not without its flaws, but it has the kind of vitality and energy rarely on display in Hindi cinema. It benefited heavily from great performances by everyone in the cast, including a fine cameo by Naseeruddin Shah. Interestingly, one of the scenes in the film, which shows Anant climbing up a staircase, was heavily reminiscent of a similar scene in Ray’s Seemabaddha.

Director: Govind Nihalani
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Police Drama
Language: Hindi
Country: India


Alex DeLarge said...

Sounds very interesting so I'll have to check it out. Your description reminds me of Bunuel and his Mexican period with gritty films like LOS OLVIDADOS, SUSANA, and EL BRUTO.

Shubhajit said...

Yeah, do check it out. Well, though I haven't watched much of Bunuel, but I feel once you watch this film you'll realise that its unlikely Bunuel's films acted as inspirations for it.

omar said...

One of my favourite parallel cinema films - has a lot going for it especially a political anger that is uncontainable in many ways. I think its had an enormous influence on films such as Satya and even the Mumbai noir genre as a whole. Great location shooting and performances are uniformly excellent. Nice write up. Not sure about Nihalani though - is he still making films?

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Omar for stopping by. Yeah, the existentialist angst in this movie did form a reference point for a number of later films. But this, in turn, I'd say would have taken references from some of the 70's Hindi movies, cos that was the decade when "anger" became the in thing.

As for Nihalani, he continued making films till the 2000's, but hasn't made one for over 5 years now.

Sam Juliano said...

"Based in the mega-city of Bombay, the movie, which derived its name from a terrific poem that is recited in one of the most memorable scenes, is gritty, hard-hitting and deeply existentialist in nature."

Sounds great Shubhajit! it's a shame how many Hindi films get by the radar, leaving cineastes that much poorer. I can certainly think of several directors who come to mind, but the humanists are envisioned especially. I wonder if this is available stateside. Great capsule as always my friend!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. I wouldn't call it a great film, but yes, its a pretty good one alright. And yeah, you're right, a lot of Indian films do not reach the West. In fact, of all the Indian languages, Hindi films are the ones that get maximum exposure in terms of popular releases in theatres. But they are mostly mainstream & populist movies that can easily be skipped by a cineaste. But a lot of really good films, because of lack of backing in terms of money, tend to remain confined in India, or at most, get to travel to film festivals, but rarely get mainstream releases in US or Europe.