As biopics go, Amit Dutta’s Nainsukh – based on the celebrated eponymous 18th century “Pahari” miniature painter’s life and times – is so elliptical, enigmatic, evasive and experimental, that it’d not just be reductive but plain inaccurate too to call it one. Dutta eschewed straightforward narrative conventions while crafting a beguiling portrait of the artist and his works, and in turn a reflection on cinematic representation of art. What made it alternately intriguing and fascinating was the way in which narrative and artistic representations – achieved through constant juxtapositions between dreamy enactments of the world around him and his exquisite depictions heavily influenced by Mughal paintings – were captured in parallel. Presented in the form of loosely interconnected tableaux, we see the silently observant Nainsukh (played by Manish Soni, a painter himself) embarking on a dramatic departure in style vis-à-vis his father and older brother (who were established painters too) by carving his own artistic signature, and thereafter amidst the ruins of the Western Himalayan town of Jasrota where he was the court painter for the local rulers (Mian Zorowar Singh and his son Balwant Singh) who were patrons of paintings, music and dance. The film’s formal rigour and minimalist naturalism were complemented through gorgeously composed and stunning framed vistas – using a mix of long overhead, leisurely dolly and dramatic canted shots – and flattened static shots of many of his paintings (oftentimes following recreations – largely underplayed, but at times deliberately theatrical too – of the scenes they capture). These, in turn, were accompanied by immersive use of Hindustani Classical music that imbued the proceedings with a lilting tempo. The end result, therefore, was akin to a visual essay that belies easy classifications.
Director: Amit Dutta
Genre: Experimental Film/Essay Film