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The Literary Presence as 'Culturing' Realism


P. Radhika

CULTURING REALISM: REFLECTIONS ON GIRISH KASARAVALLI'S FILMS
Edited by N. Manu Chakravarthy
Nudi Pustaka, Bangalore, 2007, pp. viii 144, Rs. 150.00

VOLUME XXXIII NUMBER 2 February 2009

It is apt that this review is written at a time when Girish Kasaravalli’s latest film Gulabi Talkies has won the Osian’s Best Indian Film Award. It is ironical that someone who is an important figure within the stream of parallel cinema has not found a place in the intellectual debates around parallel cinema. It is perhaps this lack that is the guiding motivation to N. Manu Chakravarthy’s edited volume of articles on Kasaravalli’s films Culturing Realism brought out by Suchitra Film Society and Nudi Pustaka   . The book is a collection of academic essays, articles and interviews that have been already published in books, magazines and newspapers. The collection is heterogeneous, not so much because of the varied genres of writing as much as the levels of insight that they offer into Kasaravalli’s films. On the one hand, we have articles by Pradip Biswas, H.N.Narahari Rao and Madhu Eravankara that are largely plot analyses. If Eravankara provides a reading of Kasaravalli’s Dweepa as a critique of development, Biswas and Rao focus on the feminist thread that runs through the films Dweepa, Thayi Saheba and Hasina. If Rao at least identifies in these films questions of freedom, agency and religious fundamentalism from the perspective of the woman protagonist, Biswas mistakenly draws on feminist theorist Toril Moi to make an argument about and extol Kasaravalli’s women characters as embodying the Mythic Mother figure—a tower of ‘human warmth, feminist strength and eternal optimism’ (p. 95).   On the other hand, the essays of both T.G.Vaidyanathan and Vidhyarthi Chatterjee are in the literary criticism mode of ‘exploring the themes’ in Kasaravalli’s early films: Ghatashraddha representing a critique of Brahmin orthodoxy, Mooru Darigalu inaugurating the series of Kasaravalli’s films on ‘the plight and exploitation of women’ and Tabarana Kathe presenting an indictment of an indifferent Indian bureaucracy. Nirmal Dhar’s essay presents a sociological analysis of Kasaravalli’s films as a critique of class, religious and feudal systems in India. In this context Manu Chakravarthy’s argument about the need for an engagement with Kasaravalli’s films as creative practice, a methodology missing in interpretations and explanations that are merely sociological in nature (p. 71) is a useful reminder, not only in relation to Kasaravalli’s films but cultural practice in general.   In Chakravarthy’s own essays on Thayi Saheba and Ghatashraddha, he reiterates ...


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