In the mid-1970s, Mani Kaul teamed up with a group of 15 former and actual film students and a set of 30 actors to produce a film version of the celebrated play Ghashiram Kotwal, written by playwright Vijay Tendulkar in 1972 as a response to the rise of a far-right regional political party. Inspired by the biography of influential minister Nana Phadnavis (1741-1800), the play exposes the machinations of power and corruption during the Peshwa rule in 18th century western India. With the support of the playwright and under the guidance of K. Hariharan and Mani Kaul, the Yukt cooperative (“Yukt” meaning joint or fused together) experimented with theatrical folk forms and the choreographed style of Hungarian filmmaker Miklós Jancsó to articulate a flamboyant cinematic criticism on the emergency politics imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Look out for the film’s audacious final shot, which in the opinion of K. Hariharan “must remain the world’s longest shot on a standard reel of 1, 000 feet to be filmed by four camera operators.”
“The traumatic days of the Emergency was forcing Indian artists to either go underground or take opportunist stances. By serendipity Mani spent long days in the FTII campus with our batch and together we resolved that the only solution was in erasing the filmmaker/author’s identity and merge it onto a collective. We launched the YUKT film cooperative in 1976 with Mani in it as a simple member along with 15 other new graduates! Few could believe their eyes watching such a celebrated artist roughing it out and sacrificing his ‘independent’ mind to realise the beauties that would emerge in such a synergy. He made us all realise that the process was more important than the final product since the artist had control only over the sheer enactment of the thought stream on-location and nothing else.” (K. Hariharan)
New digital restoration by Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst.
Marathi & Hindi with English subtitles