And as this strand of Indian cinema has begun finding more critical acclaim around the world, it has also had an impact on popular Bollywood cinema, with the studios having to adapt their films to the changing tastes of the audience, making them less chaste and tackling. daring subject matters. “This has led to the ‘masala’ guys of Bollywood dealing with more topical subjects in realistic ways,” says Shedde, who also points out conversely that filmmakers from the independent scene have been “embracing song-and-dance to be more accessible to a large audience.”
It’s certainly an exciting time for Indian cinema, with the promise of an era of rich, diverse and divisive films that are more in tune with Indian cinema’s transgressive roots than the Bollywood output that took over. These films hold a mirror up to society and like the works of Gaspar Noé, Jack Smith and Kenneth Anger (who died this week), to name three filmmakers, they are by their incredibly divisive nature and at times extremely difficult to watch. Agra fits into this mould. Behl so successfully manages to get us into Guru’s psyche that the film becomes abhorrent, attacking our senses and creating an unpleasant visceral reaction. Even as the plot widens to include money-lending, the distinction between fact and fiction is difficult to discern, which some will find powerfully unnerving, and others may find simply confusing. But the best thing about Behl’s work is that it manages to tackle one of India’s biggest and least talked-about issues without feeling like a lecture. May more and more Indian cinema be just as provocative and creatively bold.
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