My mother doesn’t usually watch movies, but a while back, as I was bemoaning the lack of anything decent to watch, she recommended that I watch Nagesh Kukunoor’s earlier movies. Though initially sceptical, I managed to ‘procure’ most of what I wanted to watch from several, completely legal sources on the internet. After about 3 days, when I emerged from the cocoon of Kukunoor that I had managed to envelop myself in, I was smitten, and how.
Here are the highlights:
I started off with his debut film, Hyderabad Blues. In the movie, where an NRI tries to find a happy medium between the Western ideals of dating and the conventions of traditional Indian society, is a story which is engaging as it is simple, imparting it an endearing earnestness.
After watching it, I was somehow rendered nostalgic for an era which I had neither seen nor been a part of. An era, where the heterotopias of the technological world did not interfere with the machinations of young love. However, the effortless charm of this movie could unfortunately not be replicated in the second instalment, Hyderabad Blues 2.
After Hyderabad Blues, I moved on to Rockford, which is a very touching, coming of age movie about an all boys school. It is a movie that is both poignant with the emotions of adolescence yet sweetened by the innocence of childhood. Through trial and tribulation, a young boy learns to find his place in the world, aided by his young Sports teacher, played by Kukunoor himself.
This movie is surprisingly accurate in its description of the nature of friendships amongst children, and boys in particular; where young shoulders cannot stand the burden of social scrutiny and ostracism and often are forced to boycott those who are dearest to them. Nandita Das is perfect in her role as the one teacher that we’ve all had a crush on from far away.
Coming to 3 Deewarein was a different experience altogether. Kukunoor’s approach to the direction in this movie seemed much more nuanced and meticulous as compared to the other 3 movies. Dealing with the lives of 3 prisoners, baring it all in a documentary being directed by Juhi Chawla, the script is the cynosure of the movie, hard hitting and exceedingly well written. It was also refreshing to see Chawla stray from her usual bubbly, girl next door typecast and take on a more serious role as a director in a rocky marriage.
The last Kukunoor movie I watched was Dhanak, a movie with a kindred spirit. Simple and exquisite, the story weaves the innocence of childhood with the very essence of the bond between siblings. It is filmed with élan in the most photogenic parts of rural Rajasthan.
Reality glimpses through the magical lens of childhood and its ability to romance any situation with an imaginative capacity that can only survive in children. All the cast, especially the lead pair, are understated yet very emotive, and the story artfully unfolds in a moving sequence of events, that does wonders to mirror the artistic genius of the director.
Nagesh Kukunoor also merits respect for bringing forth the genre of parallel cinema in Bollywood in the limelight, without having to sell out to hackneyed tricks of the trade. His movies, from Hyderabad Blues to Dor to Dhanak traces a trajectory that spells out a very optimistic future for cinema goers who prefer substance over theatrics.