Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shyam Benegal's Kalyug(1981)






KALYUG is one of the ’’best films’’ made by Shyam Benegal and taking into consideration Shyam Benegal’s oeuvre, Kalyug must be something special to deserve that tag.KALYUG was produced by Shashi Kapoor who in his producer’s phase made some really good cinema like Junoon, Kalyug, Vijeta and Utsav..its another matter that none of them did well commercially though they did get a lot of critical acclaim and bagged a host of awards.

Kalyug tells the story of two feuding business families-one led by Raj Babbar and the other by Victor Bannerjee.They are both cousins incidently and the patriarch of the whole family is their grand-uncle played by AK Hangal. Raj Babbar who has too honest and retiring a disposition finds it difficult to acquire the smart and shrewd ways of the corporate world. He basically lacks the guile and craftiness to take the family business forward much to the chagrin of his wife Rekha. His younger brother-Kulbhusan kharbanda assists him but the person who actually runs the show is their kid brother Anant Nag who plays a driven and highly ambitious person who hates to lose.

On the other hand,Victor Banerjee is a person who will do anything by hook or crook to get one-up on his cousins.He does not hesitate to use devious and even diabolical means to beat them in the game of business.In this he is assisted by his brilliant and loyal manager Shashi kapoor who does not really endorse his ways but is too burdened by his debt to protest.Victor Banerjee has a life-long gripe with his cousins as he feels he was unfairly denied his right of leading a unified and undivided business by his cousins.He knows the dark truth of his cousins’ birth.They are not really his uncle’s children as his uncle was impotent-they were fathered by a Swamiji whose ’’sewa’’ their mother-Sushma Seth did.Victor Banerjee therefore considers them ’’bastards’’ who had no rights whatsoever on the business..

Does this story sound familiar..does it ring a bell..yes the narrative of KALYUG is heavily inspired and derived from the Mahabharata..with the 2 estranged families who fight till they completely destroy each other..Its a clever interpretation of Mahabharata in the modern context..where Raj Babbar is the self-righteous Yudhistir,Kulbushan Kharbanda is the simpleton Bheem,Anant Nag is the highly skilled Arjun,Victor Banerjee is the diabolical Duryodhana and Shashi kapoor is the loyal Karna-the illegitimate son of Sushma Seth.Shashi kapoor is incidentally called karan in the film and to make matters even more delectable there is a passing reference that his marriage proposal was rejected by the very snobbish Rekha-Draupadi.

This film wonderfully extrapolates the incidents of Mahabharata in the narrative making the going-ons very interesting.The film moves at a brisk pace and you never feel the pace of the film sagging.Considering the complexity of the plots, the film still manages to very skilfully examine and delve into the protagonists’minds.Its very adroitly done-with minimum of fuss and some wonderful dialogues by Satyadev Dubey..not the ’filmy’ kind but everyday language is used...

The film’s ensemble cast put in spirited performances-be it Victor Banerjee who hits just the right pitch to play the arrogant,refined yet spiteful Dhanraj.Anant Nag shows his inherent restrain and underplays his slightly flamboyant role.Raj Babbar mercifully doesn’t ham and neither does Kulbhushan Kharbanda-think Mr. Benegal held them on a tight leash.Rekha plays the snobbish,unhappy-with-her-husband,hard as nails,uppity character with flourish.Shashi Kapoor shows what a wonderful actor he was..wish he had done more roles like this..instead of the happy-go-lucky poor man’s Shammi Kapoor roles he specialised in..The rest of the cast puts in some good performances..watch urmila matondakar as the young parikhshit...:)

The direction by Shyam Benegal is unobtrusive..he creates a complex web and draws the viewers in it..slowly but surely..there’s no look-at-me technical wizardry of Ram Gopal Verma in his directorial touches.Incidentally Ramgopal Verma said in one of his interviews that his ’Company’ was inspired by ’Kalyug’!!!Trust Ramu to come with gems like that...

So folks go for it..if you have not seen this one..there was a time when Sony used to show this film a lot..they might still be doing it on SETMAX..so whenever you do get an opportunity revel in the mastery of Shyam Benegal..

P.S- BGM of the movie by Vanraj Bhatia is excellent..it complements the movie brilliantly!!

3 comments:

? said...

Remember seeing this movie long time back; his Junoon was another Benegal gem based on a childhood favourite, The Flight of Pigeons.

Anonymous said...

Nice review of the movie.. It is said that most people haven't even heard of this gem of a movie.

Debasish Dey said...

Kalyug has a certain style and sophistication that's quite unlike movies of the eighties. It is one of the earliest Indian movies depicting corporate war / business rivalry. I'm a great lover of art movies and I watched Kalyug for the first time when I was a kid. The impressive starcast (Shashi Kapoor, Rekha, Raj Babbar, Anant Nag, Victor Bannerji, Amrish Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda), superb cinematography and wonderful musical score by Vanraj Bhatia makes this movie very memorable, not to speak of Shyam Benegal's excellent direction. This movie should have been a commercial hit, but it wasn't. Shashi Kapoor always stood by his committment of producing meaningful films with the money he earned by acting in commercial flicks, and Kalyug is no exception. In the movie, both Victor Bannerji and Anant Nag depict a certain energy and restlessness in their characters that finely contrasts with the cool attitude and calm/sober manners of the character played by Shashi Kapoor. I believe that Kalyug is a terribly underrated movie. I'm surprised that very few people have even heard about this movie, let alone watch it. This movie should be re-released in theatres (seriously!) so that the present generation can enjoy this lost gem.