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aka Wages and Profit aka The Wave 1984 171’ col/scope Hindi d/co-sc Kumar Shahani pc NFDC co-sc Roshan Shahani dial Vinay Shukla lyr Raghuvir Sahay, Gulzar c K.K. Mahajan m Vanraj Bhatia lp Smita Patil, Amol Palekar, Shriram Lagoo, Girish Karnad, Om Puri, Jalal Agha, Rohini Hattangadi, Kawal Gandhiok, M.K. Raina, Sulabha Deshpande, Arvind Deshpande, Jayanti Patel Made 12 years after Maya Darpan (1972), Shahani’s biggest film to date is an elaborately plotted melodrama precisely realising his theory of epic cinema. An industrial family headed by the patriarch Sethji (Lagoo) is split when his son-in-law Rahul (Palekar) falls out with the industrialist’s nephew Dinesh (Karnad). Sethji, who became rich as a war profiteer, regards ‘wealth creation’ as a goal in itself and ruthlessly administers his personal fiefdom accordingly. Rahul, regarded by the family as a mere caretaker until Sethji’s grandson is ready to take over, is a more modern ‘nationalist’ capitalist committed to developing indigenous technology and minimum welfare arrangements for his workers. Dinesh, on the other hand, acts (illegally) on behalf of transnational interests which stand to profit by destabilising India’s sovereignity. These conflicts are mirrored in ironically identical ways within the working class: the corrupt Patel (Patel) is a trade union leader presumably aligned to the Congress Party who sells out to the management; the worker Namdev (Puri) finds his more radical union leader Kalyan (A. Deshpande) equally inclined to opportunism while another worker, Abdul (Raina), believes the established forms of political struggle to be inadequate and joins a more extreme left group which is also betrayed by his erstwhile leader. The only figure transcending these mirrored divisions is the remarkable Janaki (Patil). Widowed when her activist husband is killed, her commitment to the nurturing of a progressive force is repeatedly exploited by different factions and conflicting ideologies: reduced to prostitution, she is manipulated by Rahul’s sexually frigid wife Hansa (Gandhiok) into becoming her husband’s mistress. The money she thus obtains from Rahul is used to support the working-class movement. Forced by Rahul to become his accomplice in a plot to kill his father-in-law, she is made the scapegoat when the family conflict escalates into virtual gang war. At the end, the film shifts into a mythic discourse and Janaki becomes the elusive voice of history. Accusing Rahul of trying to manipulate what he never understood, she claims the forces of change to be ‘faster than the fleeting wind’. This sequence replays lines from the Urvashi-Pururavas legend from the Rig Veda as analysed by the historian D.D. Kosambi in his book Myth And Reality (1962/ 1983). The film adheres to Kosambi’s view that in India, the epic has often been the most precise language available for history itself, and much of the plotting is informed by the structure of the Mahabharata. In a narrower sense, however, the film is also a definitive comment on India’s nationalist enterprise, and on the tradition of cinematic melodrama that saw itself, and its formal assimilations, as the cultural vanguard of a modernising nationstate.