Opinion | The ‘Navarasa’ anthology displaying on Netflix now’s as shallow because the cultural areas we occupy at present

Much has been written concerning the cinematic catastrophe that’s the anthology movie Navarasa, now displaying on Netflix. And whereas one often dismisses unhealthy movies with a shrug, these 9 shorts come from Tamil cinema’s supposedly high filmmakers, which makes the mediocrity a bit inexplicable. Worse, the collection is created by star director Mani Ratnam, about whose cinematic mojo the much less mentioned the higher after this outing.

But what stood out for me after the four-hour anthology was the extraordinary aridity of the cinematic creativeness on show. And this, I consider, comes from the good cultural vacuum we now occupy the place all inventive power is expended on negotiating what, for need of a greater phrase, I’ll name the ‘middle’. Nothing else explains why the phase on ‘Wonder’ couldn’t body a 30-minute futuristic plot a few time machine with out dragging in astrology and God and feeling compelled to call its protagonists Vishnu, Krishna and Kalki.

The lack of ability of Indian artists and writers to transcend mythology may at one stage be checked out merely as inventive failure however I might argue that this bogging down additionally explains our persevering with lack of creativity in, as an example, engineering or pharmacology and even dance, the place daring, unique, cutting-edge concepts nonetheless elude us. A society that repeatedly harks again is ill-equipped to satisfy the long run and that will get mirrored on this anthology as effectively, whether or not in its determination to rake up the traditional Natyashastra or in its failure to craft a crucial and modern lens to discover the 9 rasas.

The episode on ‘Disgust’, for instance, is intent on completely reproducing a Brahmin village in 1965. So you get authenticity of a photographic type, admirable little question, however one can’t evoke one thing as primal as disgust when drowning in candy nostalgia, particularly when disgust itself is such a robust and subjective emotion, various throughout cultures and throughout generations. The movie is unreal, clean, like a fairly advert for kanjeevaram saris, its social setting restricted, its transgression too petty for horror.

In ‘Anger’, the place a single mom is pressured to sleep along with her employer for a mortgage to tide her household over, the responses the filmmaker dredges up are rage and humiliation. Not respect, not understanding, not even simply love, however the identical drained, violent responses that drive honour killings. If homicide and an unforgiving daughter are the one issues a movie can conjure up in 2021, if one should nonetheless ‘judge’ a girl’s bodily selections and never simply shut up, it exposes not solely the undertaking’s inventive poverty, however the barrenness of the cultural panorama it inhabits.

It comes as no shock, due to this fact, that not one of many 9 episodes has a girl director. One suspects a girl may need at the very least had a unique sense of humour. In ‘Haasya’, Priyadarshan not solely lazily decides that the mere presence of a big, darkish, unkempt personage will generate laughter, however that spinsterhood is the final word defeat for a lady. Indian society’s deep discomfort with darkish pores and skin, educational failure, human waste, impurity, single girls, all come collectively on this unhappy excuse of an episode that any self-respecting inventive director would have thrown out.

Artistic uncertainty of this magnitude can solely be the reflection of a tottering society — one the place we really feel compelled to equate faith with science to show our ‘ancient’ credentials; the place not a day goes by with out girls being bullied on social media, usually by violent male followers of the identical movie trade; the place the worst ‘insults’ in opposition to girls nonetheless query her ‘virginity’ and ‘chastity’; the place folks can nonetheless be labelled ‘unclean’ and thus excluded; the place caste is an obsession and public humiliation honed to perfection; the place we’re so obsessed by a romanticised previous that we now have misplaced the power to query an disagreeable current.

Such an uneasy, uncertain and underconfident society will invariably encourage weird artwork as effectively. And, not least, consequence within the type of clueless impotence that marks the final Navarasa phase, ‘Romance’. Directed by Gautham Menon, the phase’s emotional vacancy and vacuity, the artifice it substitutes for candour, the verbosity it chooses over motion is in lots of, some ways a simulacrum of society at present. The hole males of this anthology are not any accident, however wholly a product of our instances.


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