wiki:Ghashiram Kotwal

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Ghashiram Kotwal

1976 108’(98’) col Marathi d K. Hariharan, Mani Kaul, Kamal Swaroop, Saeed Mirza pc Yukt Film Co-op s/lyr Vijay Tendulkar from his play c Binod Pradhan, Rajesh Joshi, Manmohan Singh, Virendra Saini m Bhaskar Chandavarkar lp Mohan Agashe, Rajani Chavan, Om Puri, Vandana Pandit, Shriram Ranade, Ravindra Sathe

This remarkable avant-garde experiment in collective film-making is based on one of the most celebrated plays in contemporary Indian theatre, staged in 1972 by the Theatre Academy, Pune (members of which participate in the film’s cast). The play used Marathi folk forms like the Gondhal and the Keertan in an elaborately choreographed musical featuring the legendary Nanasaheb Phadnavis, the prime minister of Peshwa Madhavrao II and the real power behind Maharashtra’s Peshwa throne (1773-97). The original play, a transparent allegory referring to Indira Gandhi’s reign, was adapted in order to comment on Maratha and Indian history, starting from the enthronement of the child Peshwa Madhavrao II, until the final decline of the empire and the arrival of the British (cf. Ramshastri, 1944). It presents the decadent Nanasaheb (Agashe) and his lieutenant Ghashiram (Puri), a Brahmin from Kanauj, whom he uses to mount a reign of terror in the capital city of Pune. The main plot concerns Nana’s spy network, the rout of the British at Wadgaon (1779), Ghashiram’s rise and his fall when Nana sacrifices him, and the popular revolt against Nana’s henchman leaving the prime minister (and true culprit) unscathed. The film’s main significance resides in the way it adapts theatre to investigate cinema itself, a point underlined by the chorus at the beginning of the movie and, at the end, the quote from Glauber Rocha’s Antonio das Mortes (1969) as the sutradhara (chorus) suddenly enters into the present when a truck leaves the quarry. The collective of former FTII students made one more film, Saeed Mirza’s debut Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1978) before folding. Ghashiram Kotwal itself was subject to a court order from the bank which loaned the production finance, delaying its general screening after the premiere in Madras in January 1977.