How Indian filmmakers were influenced by Jean-Luc Godard

How Indian filmmakers were influenced by Jean-Luc Godard

Amartya Bhattacharyya's film Adieu Godard, currently playing in theatres, is about Ananda, an ignorant, lanky elderly man who is hooked to p**n. Ananda lives in a remote village in the Indian state of Odisha. Every day, he travels far distances by bicycle to collect DVDs with phony p**nographic covers. To the dismay of his wife and adult daughter, he later watches it at home with his four-person team. One day, a DVD malfunctions and instead starts playing the Jean-Luc Godard film Breathless, a French cult favourite. Ananda's friends tease him about the movie's lack of "music, dance, fight, and romance," but he can't help but watch it again and again. Ananda becomes a fan of Godard as a result of the fortuitous encounter, and he intends to bring the French director to his community in order to "make people think and open up their brains." Ananda's interest in Godard is comparable to Bhattacharyya's interest in the iconoclastic French director who is renowned for having championed a spontaneous, firmly modern, fiercely free, and just-pick-up-a-camera-and-start-shooting style of filmmaking. Godard committed assisted suicide earlier this month and passed away at age 91.
The 123-minute movie appears to be a tribute to some of the most well-known filmmakers in the world, noted for their groundbreaking works that introduced handheld cameras, jump cuts, and existential dialogue to cinema. The new wave movement adopted Godard's catchphrase, "A movie should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order," and his impact was felt throughout the world, including in India.

In a career spanning seven decades and nearly 100 films, Godard outlived all of his contemporaries by working until the age of 89. By essentially being non-conformist, non-rigid in structure, and impromptu in delivery, Adieu Godard is every bit Godardian in flavour. Twenty minutes into the movie, director Bhattacharyya deftly but abruptly shifts the narrative from black and white to colour, where Shilpa, Ananda's daughter, is seen telling her lover her father's story. The dialogues, which are brief, effective, and engaging and are delivered in a conversational style, centre on discussions of life, sex, and cinema, whetting the intellectual curiosity of the audience. Bhattacharyya remarked, "I have long admired Godard for defying the studio structure, copyright rules, and the monopoly of traditional Hollywood. He is arguably the most avant-garde director working today. He left such a lasting impression on me that if one were to delve deeply into the subtext of my films, they would find him there in a plethora of ways. One of the most important things I learned from dad was to follow my intuition rather than the rules. Bhattacharyya joins a long list of Indian filmmakers who have been influenced by Godard's libertarian beliefs and ideals. Producer of Adieu Godard Swastik Choudhury claims that Anurag Kashyap movies like Gulaal, Dev.D, and Black Friday are examples of Godard's cinematic style, which defies convention.

Om-Dar-B-Dar, a postmodernist movie from 1988 directed by Kamal Swaroop and made by the National Film Development Corporation of India, is credited with drawing inspiration from Godard and his dramatically intense, free-spirited, and restless works. Swaroop's movie is a cult masterpiece and was much ahead of its time. Its musical selection was unusual. Despite the lack of a clear storyline, one could still sense the magic realism and sly humour. The banter was witty, and the plot grew in its crudeness.

Godard's contemporaries in India—Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, Satyajit Ray, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mrinal Sen, and Ritwik Ghatak—took inspiration from French cinema during the 1960s, 1990s, and 2000s as one after another of Godard's groundbreaking movies debuted at the box office, helping to launch the nation's own parallel cinema.
"Godard's was avant-garde cinema and he brought in a distinct perspective to the art," said Bina Paul, a former artistic editor. He emphasised that the enchantment is produced by the dialectic that results from fusing sound and vision, not the tale itself. He maintained what was so groundbreaking in and of itself at the time throughout his entire career. He was humorous, very intelligent, and self-reflective. No Indian filmmaker today emulates his style, but we all took something away from him—the subtleties of how you cut, where you cut, and how you use your camera—and those things have stayed with us. Even Satyajit Ray, who always spoke well of him, acknowledged the impact Godard had on him.

Godard gained a huge following in Bengali and Malayalam cinema throughout the years due to his Marxist tendencies. The title of Don Palathara's Everything is Cinema (2021), as well as its jump cuts, sound design, and methods of engrossing and interfering with the audience's experience of storytelling, are all inspired by Godard's biography. The 2017 film Mayaanadhi, which was directed and co-produced by Aashiq Abu, is the most noteworthy example of Godard's influence on Kerala's narrative. "Godard has questioned hegemony and authority, and to me, he is the face against establishment," asserted Bhattacharyya. His films are not staged, and his aesthetics are organic and unplanned. His work exudes a sense of extreme candour and genuineness. I believe that every movie has stolen from him. The form, language, and style of film pre- and post-Godard are very different from one another.

But as Palathara noted, copying Godard's style is not simple. "He never wanted people to think of him as an airport or station. Instead, he would urge people to think of him as a vehicle—a car or an airplane—where passengers may board for a while and then disembark to continue their own trips.

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