Thursday, December 10, 2009

IFAC #10: Antarmahal, or: I need a rewatch.

Can I review a movie I barely remember details from? Antarmahal: Views of the Inner Chamber (2005) is the only Bengali film I've seen so far, and my reasons for viewing it were perhaps a tad too fangirly for the sort of artsier feature it ended up being, considering it's directed by Rituparno Ghosh.

Jackie Scroff plays an oppressive head of a rich household in 19th century Bengal. He has a wife (Rupa Ganguly) put decides to get a new, younger one (Soha Ali Khan), much to the older wife's discontent. Being the douchebag he is, he also wants to suck up to the Brits by replacing the face of Goddess Durga with the face of the Queen, and hires a non-Bengali sculptor (Abhishek Bachchan, with eyeliner!) to do the job.

As you can imagine by considering the fact it's a Bengali art film, the pace is slow and shots linger on seemingly unimportant details. I'll just come right out and say it: I may understand these sorts of films but when I watched it, I was far too lazy to figure it out. However, in an interesting way, the film still delivered. Rupa Ganguly's performance was excellent and incredibly intense, erotic but completely silent chemistry between Abhishek and Soha made the film worth watching.

Still, as far as anything else goes, it's hard to grasp what the film maker was actually getting at. The film has been described as graituitously erotic. Besides the interest between Abhishek and Soha, there is Rupa Ganguly's character whose sleazy husband makes her satisfy Brahmin priests. He also tries to sleep with Soha's character, also with a priest present in order to perform the necessary rites to make sure she becomes pregnant with a son for him, but she keeps rejecting him.

Even after I finished watching I knew I needed to rewatch to really sink my teeth into this movie. But then, years went by, and I never bought the DVD to have that rewatch. I just didn't care, I suppose. Some art films feel like they reward the effort of rewatches, the effort of picking them apart. Others just fail to impress as movies, regardless of artistic intent. Antarmahal always seemed more of the latter, and not enough of the first.


Anonymous said...

Since I am looking for Bengali films to cut my teeth on, I'll look for this on Netflix or elsewhere. Who knew eyeliner could work on non-emo guys? Well, actually I did since I come from the generation of The Cure, The Cult, The Clash, The Violent Femmes,etc. but they weren't emo, they were just really cool and non-conformist.

Aamir wears eyeliner in 1947, and in Sarfarosh (I of his cop movies, anyways).
Abischek smolders quite nicely, so you have piqued my interest.

Andromache said...

I did not like this one, save for the positive sides you mentioned. I got the icky feeling that the director was objectifying female suffering. Trying to make it all pretty and glamaorous. (Whenever I think of this movie, I tend to remember how Soha Ali Khan's character was constantly traumatized and yet always made up to look perfectly lovely. Creepy.)

Anonymous said...

I don't recall any type of trauma actually messing up the heroine's makeup or hair, in the movies that I have seen. Although, it could be they wanted to show how stoic and uncomplaining she was, despite the difficult circumstances. I have a difficult time watching explicit abuse, that is intentionally made to look realistic. This is the reason that I haven't watched a number of award-winning movies that portray women's suffering. Maybe I should give this one a pass.

veracious said...

inotherwoods - Abhi with eyeliner is great but not a very grateful role for him.

Andromache - Good point about objectifying female suffering. I was sort of busy to try and figure the movie out to focus on such aspects, I guess. But yeah, it's not a terribly impressive film.

Anonymous said...

Another bad review... Do you understand art films? Who told you art films never impress? Pls remember that you are audacious enough to say so about a man who has created art films and has won several national and international awards for his superb quality movies. Dont you have enough Hollywood movies that you do the stupidity of handling Bollywood movies? I am amazed at your intelligence really.