I recently watched CHORUS again, roughly four decades after the film was made in 1974. For the uninitiated, this is a film directed by Mrinal Sen. Some thoughts came to my mind in its wake, which I have tried to enumerate here…
I feel this is a very significant film in Indian cinema, as significant as say, Pather Panchali, and Sholay, though their genres are vastly different. It also reveals the tilt that Indian art cinema (with notable exceptions like Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani) took towards a more narrative classical approach after a lukewarm response to this unconventional work. So much so, that even the subsequent Mrinal Sen turned contemplative and less experimental in his later films, which many film buffs feel was his most creative phase in which films like Kharij, Ek Din Pratidin & Khandahaar among many others from his oeuvre got made.
CHORUS is arguably the most experimental film in Indian cinema (Sunil Dutt’s single actor Yaddein also comes to mind), a social satire made in a style which is part documentary, part Fellini-esque fantasy, farcical - almost bordering on gimmickry & degenerating into a communist manifesto with innovate camerawork (just watch the ‘melee going berseck’ sequence towards the end) and sound (Fight sequences, Army march conveyed through appropriate devices). If memory serves me right, even Bunnel used similar sound devices in his acclaimed film ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ (1972) to highlight the Army march, and Mrinal Sen, in all likelihood, could not have been influenced by Bunnel given the marginal gap between the two works. Stylistically, this is easily the most liberal work from Mrinal Sen.
Emboldened with the success of BHUVAN SHOME a few years back, and mixed success with experimentation in his earlier works like Interview & Calcutta 71, CHORUS attains the zenith in deviating from conventional norms of Indian filmmaking. This is truly a unique attempt at serious social commentary, using rather playful devices. Again thematically and technically similar to Bunnel’s ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ - the bourgeoisie is attacked, but the tone is more of amusement than outrage. For a detailed storyline, see the link. The failure of CHORUS to gain wider acceptability among film buffs (even so called discerning types) is a tell tale of why a Hollywood can make an Inception that click at the box office, while Bollywood needs a 3 Idiots to achieve that success. On a lighter note, I think it is time for someone to pen a sequel to the book ‘Our films, their films’. Would anyone be willing? If only I had the time…
Rating: 4.75 out of 5
Interested readers may visit the writers site for more information on Mrinal Sen at the following link: