The sense of sight, touch and hearing have been well covered by cinema over the years. Even the sense of taste has been covered but not as much as the former senses. But very rarely would you come across a movie which uses the sense of smell as an integral part of a story.
Thanks to the good folks at Alliance Francaise de Bombay, I have had the opportunity to see quite a few good movies and that too totally free. 7 Ans (7 years), a french film, is one such movie.
Though overall it didn’t impress me, the way smell was used in the movie was a first for me. I hadn’t watched even a single movie which had used smell as an integral part of the story. The opening shot of the movie shows a woman who is ironing some clothes and spraying a perfume on them. She then gives them to her husband who has been imprisoned for 7 years for a crime which is not disclosed in the movie. The husband is fond of the scent of the perfume and his wife sprays it on his clothes which are allowed to be pressed every week. He as well as his wife satisfies their sexual urge from the smell. The film then shows the sexual psychology of the prisoner and his wife.
Sadly, the movie fizzles out towards the end instead of sizzling. But what stayed with me even after the movie was the use of the perfume. I started thinking that not only such study of sexual psychology in Indian cinema would be impossible to even think of in the foreseeable future, but was also pessimistic of the use of the sense of ‘smell’ in it.
But to my pleasant surprise at Mumbai Film Festival this year(2009) I read in the catalogue about a marathi movie called Gandha, written and directed by Sachin Kundalkar, which uses smell as an integral part of it. I watched it quite eagerly and was very impressed. The new wave of marathi movies which are coming up are taking giant steps forward in bringing Indian cinema to a world-class level. Gandha is a shining example.
Gandha is basically divided into three short independent stories. But in each of these stories the characters are going through deep experiences involving the sense of smell.
The first one Lagnachya Vayachi Mulgi( A Bride to Be) is about a dark-skinned girl Veena, played by Amruta Subhash, whose parents want to marry her off. But she is mesmerized by a scent emanating from a student Girish Kulkarni(also lead actor in Gabhricha Paus), in a Art college where she works as a typist. The story is based in Shanivar Peth a traditional “Puneri” area. Her parents, Girish Kulkarni and her colleague put up a fine job in supporting Amruta Subhash. She herself has done her job well. The “dakhavne” scene or where the prospective groom’s family comes to have a look at her is especially mentionable. Though it has been done to death Amruta doesn’t look irritating, unlike Kareena in MPKDH. One of the very few romantic comedies which I actually liked. The interesting way in which the story unfolds is the reason. Overall a pleasant watch.
The second – Aushadhe Ghenaaraa Maanus(Man on Medicines) – is a story high on drama where HIV+ fashion photographer Sarang’s (Milind Soman) wife Raavee (Sonali Kulkarni) comes to visit him. This is perhaps the best directed story of the three. It is metaphorical and multi-layered. From the ‘stinking’ smell of his hidden pasts and their failed marriage, to the ‘chemical’ smell of his inevitable death. The way the director has used the sense of smell to convey a story was really commendable. In the last scene, Sarang manically starts sniffing at everything, right from a lemon to a cooking gas. He can’t actually catch the smell because being HIV+ he is suffering from loss or distortion of smell. But the director is more than successful in making us the audience smell the shoes and the gas from the other side of the screen. Milind Soman’s personality fits the character to the tee. But I felt his acting, though alright, couldn’t keep up with the demands of the role. If it wasn’t for the acting this story would have been at an altogether different level. Sachin Kundalkar should be given special kudos for this one.
The third and probably the best in my view is Bajoola Basleli Baai (A Woman Sitting Aside). Set in the Konkan region this story is about a childless woman Janaki(Neena Kulkarni) who is not allowed to participate in the delivery of her sister-in-law’s baby as she is having her periods. Amalendhu Chaudhary, the cinematographer, has done a brilliant job of capturing the Konkan in the heavy rains. Neena Kulkarni has done an excellent job. She holds this segment together all by herself. Easily the best actor of the movie. She plays the role with absolute ease. The director has subtly showed what a menstruating woman is made to undergo in rural Maharashtra.
Sonali Kulkarni also deserves accolades for the diverse roles which she portrays. Her last movie which I had seen was ‘Gabhricha Paus’, wherein she played a Vidharba cotton farmer’s wife, a complete shift from the glam avatar she has portrayed in ‘Gandha’. The Kulkarnis– Sonali, Neena, Girish in this movie and Atul Kulkarni, Vinayak and Umesh Kulkarni(writer-director of Valu) are taking the marathi film industry by storm. They actually might turn out to become the ‘Khans’ of the marathi industry.
That writer-director Sachin Kundalkar is inspired from world cinema can be clearly seen. Write from the titles in the beginning of the film to the subtle references like the DVDs on Sarang’s rack, are a proof of the fact. In the press conference which followed the screening the director was asked whether he was inspired by any woman for the third story. Without any inch of hesitance he said that the character was inspired from his experiences as a child when his mother was having periods. He said that the experiences were especially enriching as he got to have extra time with his mother who then told him many things about life. Forget being discussed, I don’t remember the menstruating cycle even being mentioned before in Indian cinema. The director as well as the producers should be specially appreciated for this. The production values were excellent too. I have seldom seen marathi movies with better production values. He also said in the conference that though the movie is running well in theatres in Pune, he is finding it difficult to find distributors in Mumbai. Hope they find one soon.
The craft with which the marathi movies are being made are making me a prouder Maharashtrian day by day. Compensating for the shame I fell by the hulla-gulla of good-for-nothing son-of-the-soil politicians. The Marathi New Wave as it is being called is very exciting for us cinema-lovers. Sachin Kundalkar and the producers are very high on my list for the people to watch-out for.
This post was originally published on 16th November, 2011.
tu “Perfume:Story of a murderer” baddal tar visarla !!!
When i had written this i hadn’t even heard about the film. And i am saying it is rare and not never touched upon. Now that i have seen the film i can say with certainty that Gandha is a superior film.
And you are dating some marathi girl or what? 😉 impressive, must say.