Archive for Manoj Bajpai

Qalandar Reviews Special 26 (Hindi; 2013)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by Qalandar

Little in cinema is as enjoyable, as seductively charming, as a good caper film, centered around a dashing thief and con-artist the audience has no choice but to root for against the agents of the staid State trying to foil him, a harmless outlet for what Hannah Arendt once called the bourgeoisie’s fascination with criminality. And, on paper, Special 26, Neeraj Pandey’s film about a bunch of thieves who in the late-1980s impersonate one of India’s pre-eminent agencies, the Central Bureau of Investigation (“CBI”), conducting raids on, and looting, dozens of people with “black” money to hide (with the real CBI in hot pursuit), should have been that kind of film. It isn’t: despite a generally solid cast and a high-quality plot (Pandey himself wrote it), the film is seriously let down by a directorial style that isn’t nearly as nimble as this material needs it to be. In short, what Special 26 needed was elan; what Pandey offers is filmmaking that plods. That the film is nevertheless likely to end up as one of 2013’s better films is a depressing commentary on the state of the Hindi film industry. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews GANGS OF WASSEYPUR (Hindi; 2012)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2012 by Qalandar

Updating this post as Qalandar’s piece has now been published on the Outlook site

Gangs of Wasseypur opens with two of my pet peeves: a voiceover, and an explanation of where we are and how we got there (it’s cinema, people, show me, don’t tell me!). But – and I’m not sure how he does this – director Anurag Kashyap uses these clunky props to pull off some of his best filmmaking yet, in a fantastic hour that situates us in Dhanbad, in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) coal belt, the casual and systematic brutality of its mining industry, and the complicity of the state (both pre- and post-colonial) in all manner of oppression. Marking incident, place and time is Piyush Mishra’s gravelly voice, informing us that our special Purgatory is Wasseypur in the 1940s, south of Dhanbad, a Muslim-village locked in permanent struggle between the Qureshis (butchers by trade) and every other kind of Muslim. Continue reading

The Hatred of Democracy: RAJNEETI (Hindi; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2010 by Qalandar


Yes, the title of this review is borrowed from the book by the French philosopher Jacques Ranciere. And no, this isn’t overkill. Not when you consider that Rajneeti is only the latest in the line of films set in the world of Indian politics, mostly distinguished only by their suspicion of democracy (masquerading as skepticism of politicians), and by their refusal to engage with any politics. Almost as if the mere fact of representing politicians on screen liberates one from ever having to talk about politics (even as the films themselves advance a subversive form of politics that is neither progressive nor practical). The director only needs to show the jockeying of various more-or-less villainous characters, pillaging and murdering their way across the landscape with abandon. Don’t believe me? Watch Madhur Bhandarkar’s Satta (2003). Or watch director Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti, which, despite an impressive star cast, a much larger canvas, and the (for Bollywood) previously virgin locales of Bhopal, manages to muddle its way through “politics” with what I can only call cretinous irresponsibility.
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