Shantaram's classic opens with a sensational low-angle circular track movement as Chandika cult followers meet in a dungeon of flickering lights and deep shadow. As the more rationalist King Krantivarma (Varde) banned human or animal sacrifices from the increasingly fanatical festivals dedicated to the goddess, the cult's high priest (Chandramohan/Date) orders the hapless Vishwagupta (Kelkar) to kill the king.
He obeys but is then betrayed by the perfidious priest and caught. His son Madhavgupta (Mane) and daughter Sumitra (Apte) together with the princess (Tarkhad) and the people finally overthrow the priest. There are several famous scenes, including the twice-told legend of the churning of the seas, once by the priest to show how evil must be exorcised, and again by a good general to show how demons often appear disguised as gods.
Although invoking divine intervention when Madhavgupta is about to be sacrificed, the film's strongly political thrust has the people rise in revolt.
Did you know?
The director, Shantaram had just returned from Germany and used several techniques from that expressionist cinema, including the systematic recourse to artificial light, even bleaching the film in places, and, in its most famous shot, the telephoto lens focused on the priest's right eye in his opening declaration. Read More