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Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021
Outlook.com
Showtime

Gajagamini

Gajagamini
Gajagamini
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Shabana Azmi
Director: M.F. Husain
Rating: *

The film is dedicated to three women. It then goes on to present one of them in five avatars, each supported by five other women characters from literature and mythology, who in turn are flanked by men ranging from a C.V. Raman lookalike to Kalidas to da Vinci to Kamdev to Shahrukh Khan. Both the male and female incarnations further transform into other reincarnations. The narrative (or rather the lack of it) moves through a series of motifs—chiefly of the gathri and the lantern—feigning to bare the mystery and hidden power of womanhood. It fails terribly, and instead exposes a complete poverty of idea and image. The idea of dispensing with the narrative in favour of symbolism and other ''isms'' is not new. It lost its radical fervour with the decline of the French new wave. But symbols were packed with irony, beauty and the raw dialectics of power during the movement's heyday. The form was explored partially (with mixed results) by Mani and Avtaar Kaul in India too. Husain's images, however, are tame and lifeless; beyond a point even the symbology gets inane—the gathri, dhobi bundle, for want of a better phrase, as a woman's burden through the ages.
Madhuri as a blind tawaif or adhunik Shakuntala is entirely unilinear. The women come across more as abstract, intellectual concepts rather than teasing symbols. Most of the male characters are played by sissy models—Husain in fact depicts soft manliness as a virtue which ultimately takes away the fire from his womanhood too.
The idea of organising the sets like a staged play appears unique on the surface—the look is clean because of some neat camerawork and Husain does organise some of his frames like a painting—but this was supposed to be a cinematic act, not an art lesson set in the ipta dance drama mode. Naseeruddin Shah as da Vinci seems more like a Pied Piper of Hamelin. Shabana Azmi, Farida Jalal and Shilpa Shirodkar simply repeat themselves. But the big disappointment is the muse herself. The film was presumed to have brought out Madhuri's covert nuances and sensuality; yet she looks jaded in what seems like a forced performance. The man who gave us different layers of fun and force in his paintings (remember Madhuri with the bull) fails to strike even an irreverent note. This is a failure of a once creative idiosyncrasy gone politically correct and artistically dated—wahan gaye Goddard mian, yahan gaye Husain mian!

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