Mani Kaul (1944-2011): Ode To A Great Indian Filmmaker

Mani Kaul was one of the pioneering Indian filmmakers who contributed to the evolution of Parallel Cinema in India. Trained in the Film and Television Institute of India Pune, when Ritwik Ghatak was the chairman, Mani Kaul took cinema as an intricate method of expression. His Uski Roti (1969) was a revolution in Indian cinema bringing in an intellectual and intuitive approach to film-making (Filmfare critics award, 1971). Instead of obvious portrayal of emotions he made the audience study and understand every frame of his creations. If you are not attentive you may soon lose the thread of the narrative.

Rooted to realism Mani Kaul could hardly differentiate between his masterful features and documentaries. He won his first National Award for his feature ‘Duvidha’ in 1974 for Best Direction and won his second for his documentary ‘Siddheswari’ in 1989 for Best Documentary. His musical masterpiece ‘Dhrupad’ (1982) showed his deep understanding of Indian music and rigorous training under a guru. With profound understanding of life he also took the bold step of adopting Fydor Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot’ (1992) as a Hindi television serial and later a film for which he got the Filmfare critics award, 1993. In all, he got four Filmfare Critics Awards.

I met him several times when he was associating in the organization of the first and second Bombay International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films (now MIFF) during 1990-92. Last time I met him on a long drive which was also several years ago. His liberated mind and sense of humor made him great company, always.

His death at 66 marks the end of an era. Maybe an incomplete one. Mani Kaul died at New Delhi in the early hours of 6th July, 2011 after a prolonged illness. We condole the demise of a great filmmaker and pray for the eternal bliss of his soul.


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