Friday, November 4, 2016

Something different from India: the college-theater fantasia from Kranti Kanadé, CRD

Said to have set the critical establishment of India on its collective ear, CRD -- the new film all about college theater, competition, fascism (or so the publicity materials note), love, sexuality and family -- from writer/director Kranti Kanadé, does indeed look like no other Indian movie that TrustMovies has heretofore seen. We are also told that India's leading film critic, Namrata Joshi had this to say: “Kanadé breaks all the rules of filmmaking in creating CRD, which boldly goes where no Indian film has gone before.” The key words in both Joshi's and my assessment of CRD are these: "Indian film."

Plenty of other movies from all over the world have broken the rules in just about every way imaginable, and what Mr. Kanadé does here (the filmmaker is shown  at left), while entertaining and impressive as filmmaking, will not seem so unusual -- except, I think, to Indians themselves, or to film buffs who mostly know Indian film from the spectrum of Bollywood on one hand and the pure, pristine work of Satyajit Ray on the other.

India, it would seem, is rather late in coming to the "modern filmmaking" table. Think of CRD's effect on the sub-continent as something like what Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects had on American critics and audiences. Kanadé does all sorts of tricks with time and place, editing, intercutting (there's even a short slice of Bollywood here), fantasy, reality, sexuality and sexual preference. (At one point our hero muses that he could be "the wife.")

The story is that of a group of college students who enter an annual content for Best New Play and then try to bring about the winning of that contest. We never get to see much of the actual play but instead work around and through it via getting to know something about the students involved (along with their very break-all-the-rules teacher). Love and lust and family and class (and caste) are all included, along with, I suspect, lots more -- the allusions, visual and verbal to which, only Indians or those who know that country's mores and culture very well, will pick up.

But even for someone like me, who does not know these things, the movie proved worth watching and was easy enough to enjoy and wonder at. While its hero, as well as that scary/sexy teacher (shown above), may sometimes strike you as too much like that smarty-pants kids in your drama class who always knew everything better than anyone else and never wanted to abide by any rule, still, these characters and the movie they inhabit consistently strike a chord of genuine exploration, caring and the will to change.

For me the movie's most moving moment comes near its close, when our hero can finally admit and accept what and who his mother actually was. There is plenty else here, too -- from humor and surprise to amazement and shock. And lots of enjoyment. The biggest problem I had with the film is that it switches back and forth over and over again from Hindi (and occasionally French) with English subtitles to English spoken with rather thick Indian accents without subtitles. I think it would have been wiser to have English subtitles throughout.

In any case, the big screen is the place to see CRD, and it opens today in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Town Center 5 and Monica Film Center. Elsewhere? I don't know. But watch for it -- if not at a theater near you then on DVD or digital. Eventually, I hope.

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