Friday, Jul 01, 2022

Middle Cinema Of The 70s Bridged Commercial And Arthouse

Poised against extravagant masala films and sombre arthouse outings in the tumultuous 70s, Middle Cinema limned the lives of middle class men and women

Stills from Rajnigandha
Stills from Rajnigandha Stills from Rajnigandha

A man and a woman are travelling by a taxi. They are sitting close to each other, yet an invisible barrier separates them. The taxi glides through the roads of Mumbai and we see apartment buildings and marketplaces pass by. Inside the taxi, however, the intensity of unspoken emotions is heightened. The woman frequently looks towards the man but avoids eye contact. The loose end of her sari flutters in the wind, caressing his hand that lies next to her on the car seat. The scene switches back and forth between reality and fantasy, as the woman imagines herself, sometimes in the arms of the man next to her, and sometimes in the arms of her actual partner. The wide, winding roads of Mumbai bear witness to this intimate moment of a woman’s unspoken longings.

This is a scene from the film Rajnigandha, dir­e­c­ted by Basu Chatterjee, and starring Vidya Sinha, Amol Palekar and Dinesh Thakur. The scene plays out in the backdrop of a song and picturises, with rare sensitivity, the complicated emotions of a young, highly-educated woman living a sheltered, middle-class life, who is unexpectedly confronted by her past.