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Film scholar,Devdutt Trivedi reassesses Mani Kaul's cinema in his book "Cine-Interiors: The Films Of Mani Kaul." Svanik Surve reviews it

Mani Kaul is one of the few Indian filmmakers whose films kept exploring the ever-changing psyche of the Indian mind, giving rise to a filmography that is both firm in its slow psychological gaze and radical in exploring the wide expanse of post-colonial rhetoric that swept through the nation towards the turn of the century. Devdutt Trivedi's "Cine-interiors" is a book that promises to both explain Kaul's intentionality with the camera (which is considered to offer a peek into the interior condition) while managing to connect this to a wider range of theoretical discourse pertaining to psychoanalysis, metaphysics, linguistics and even music, to name a few. 

What initially draws fascination in reading the book is in the way in which it threads together biographical elements of Kaul's life and the context surrounding his filming while maintaining a bird's eye view towards the author’s serious, esoteric style of trying to know Mr. Kaul more deeply. The book manages to hit certain peaks according to who is reading it because it is willing to adopt a more dynamic, filmography-sensitive approach to analysis. For example, in Mr. Trivedi's analysis of Light Apparel, his style of looking at the film scene by scene happens to take you from initial political observations to ultimately discuss deeper psychic interpretations by the time the film nears its end. He happens to, in such instances, mould his style of review to how the film is shot, an approach impossible to achieve for a regular viewer of Kaul's films. 

The author also allows himself to indulge in multiple philosophical topics while maintaining the logic he sets at the beginning of the book. As a result, we manage to grasp an analysis of the filmmaker not experienced before. By benefit of hindsight, one realises that an attempt to string together Mr. Kaul's entire filmography while adopting a singular approach, say Psychoanalysis or gender studies, seems to be deeply problematic to view a filmmaker who sought to defy the boundaries of philosophical conversation. By avoiding this cliche laid out by a lot of mainstream film writers in the country, Mr. Trivedi by the end of the book turns out to be just the right mind to decrypt his enigmatic subject. 

Mani Kaul's Mati Manas (1985)

In his efforts, the author gives us the feeling that Cine-Interiors both attempts to listen as well as respond to Mr. Kaul's films at the same time, an exercise that makes for a lively reading experience. For students like myself who are beginning their filmmaking journey, the notes made on the practical eye used in filming specific contexts become open enough for us to gather an understanding of how style can match the bigger philosophical challenges of using the camera. To connect the practice of exploring the mutability of the mind with a wider context of a museum, as explored in Mati Maanas, for example, gives us a peek into how the filmmaker threads together multiple considerations within the film into a cohesive yet abstract unit. 

In this way, Cine-Interiors is an essential addition to the limited body of serious analysis done on Mani Kaul, and by the end of the book one realises that to painstakingly spend years decrypting the larger-than-life films of the director is truly an admirable act of genuine cine-philia seldom seen in a country that has long preferred more mindless masala blockbusters. 

Svanik Surve is a video essayist on Cinema and aspiring filmmaker who enjoys Japanese, Russian and Indian regional cinema.

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