Mirch Masala (1985)

 ●  Hindi ● Running Time: TBA

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Following its commercial release in New York this became Mehta’s best-known film outside India. Intended as an allegory of colonial oppression but presented as a sex-and-violence drama, the film is set in pre-Independence Saurashtra. The despotic tax collector Subedar (Shah), dressed in a way that evokes British 19th C. catchpenny prints and Daumier’s cartoons, imposes his rule on a village. All the villagers try to satisfy his every whim, except for the protesting schoolteacher (Gilani). The drama starts when the beautiful Sonbai (Patil) is to be surrendered to the lecherous Subedar. She takes refuge in the courtyard of a spice factory run entirely by women and is protected by an aged watchman (Om Puri) who closes the gates to Subedar’s men. Although made in Hindi, the film draws on Gujarati verbal and performative idioms. Mehta explicitly deployed stock literary melodrama characters, but these cliches from contemporary popular culture lack the historical resonance achieved by the more complex figures Mehta used in his extraordinary Bhavni Bhavai (1980).

Release Dates: 01 Jan 1985 (India)

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