Kumar Shahani

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Kumar Shahani
Born(1940-12-07)7 December 1940
Larkana, Sindh
OccupationFilm director, film academic, visual artist
Known for Maya Darpan , Tarang

Kumar Shahani (born 7 December 1940) is a noted Indian film director and screenwriter, best known for his parallel cinema films, Maya Darpan (1972) and Khayal Gatha (1989) and Kasba (1990). [1] Due to his dedication to formalism, and with the reputation of his first feature, Maya Darpan being considered among Indian cinema's first formalist film, he is frequently grouped by critics and film enthusiasts alongside similar stylistic filmmakers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Jacques Rivette. [2]

Parallel cinema was a film movement in Indian cinema that originated in the state of West Bengal in the 1950s as an alternative to the mainstream commercial Indian cinema, represented especially by popular Hindi cinema, known today as Bollywood.

<i>Maya Darpan</i> 1972 film by Kumar Shahani

Maya Darpan is a 1972 Indian Hindi film directed by Kumar Shahani. It is a significant work of the Indian Parallel Cinema movement which started during the 1950s with filmmakers Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. The film was forgotten soon after its release, but was rediscovered and is today considered a landmark work of Indian cinema. The film stars Aditi and Anil Pandya.

Khayal Gatha is a 1989 Indian experimental film written and directed by Kumar Shahani. The film is about the history of the Khayal genre of Indian classical singing. The film also traces the relationship of Khayal genre with Indian classical dance.


Early life

Shahani was born in Larkana, Sindh (now in Pakistan), after the partition of India in 1947, Shahani's family shifted to the city of Bombay (now Mumbai). He received a B. A. (hons) from the University of Bombay in Political Science and History and studied screenplay writing and Advanced Direction at the Film and Television Institute of India, where he was a student of Ritwik Ghatak. He also studied under the renowned historian D. D. Kosambi. He was awarded a French Government Scholarship for further studies in France, [3] where he studied at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) and assisted Robert Bresson on Une Femme Douce .

Larkana City in Sindh, Pakistan

Larkana is a city in the north-west of the Sindh province of Pakistan, where the historic Indus River flows in south of the city. It is called the city of Holy Alams due to the greatest number of Holy Alams as compared to other cities or regions of the world. It is home to the Indus Valley Civilization site Mohenjo-daro, which is larger in size than Babylonia and Assyria. It is the 15th Largest city of Pakistan.

Sindh Province in Pakistan

Sindh is one of the four provinces of Pakistan, in the southeast of the country, and the historical home of the Sindhi people. Sindh is the third largest province of Pakistan by area, and second largest province by population after Punjab. Sindh is bordered by Balochistan province to the west, and Punjab province to the north. Sindh also borders the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan to the east, and Arabian Sea to the south. Sindh's landscape consists mostly of alluvial plains flanking the Indus River, the Thar desert in the eastern portion of the province closest to the border with India, and the Kirthar Mountains in the western part of Sindh.

Pakistan federal parliamentary constitutional republic in South Asia

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s sixth-most populous country with a population exceeding 212,742,631 people. In area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the far northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.


He returned to India to make his first feature film Maya Darpan in 1972 and had to wait twelve years before he received funding to make his next full-length feature film, Tarang . [4]

Tarang English title Wages and Profits, is a 1984 Indian Hindi-language drama film written and directed by Kumar Shahani. The film is Shahani's second feature film after his most famous work, Maya Darpan, and took him more than 12 years to raise funding for. The movie is considered, along with Shahani's other features, to be a seminal work of India's Parallel Cinema movement. The movie stars several big actors who were prominent in the Indian art cinema scene of the early 80's, including Amol Palekar, Smita Patil, Girish Karnad, Om Puri, and Shreeram Lagoo.

From 1976 to 1978 he held a Homi Bhabha Fellowship to study the epic tradition of the Mahābhārata, Buddhist iconography, Indian classical music and the Bhakti movement. [5]

Indian classical music Classical music from the Indian subcontinent

Indian classical music is the classical music of the Indian subcontinent. It has two major traditions: the North Indian classical music tradition is called Hindustani, while the South Indian expression is called Carnatic. These traditions were not distinct till about the 16th century. There on, during the turmoils of Islamic rule period of the Indian subcontinent, the traditions separated and evolved into distinct forms. Hindustani music emphasizes improvisation and exploring all aspects of a raga, while Carnatic performances tend to be short and composition-based. However, the two systems continue to have more common features than differences.

Bhakti movement Period of common mens devotion to god in Medieval Indian Subcontinent.

The Bhakti movement refers to the theistic devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism and later revolutionised in Sikhism. It originated in eighth-century south India, and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards, reaching its zenith between the 15th and 17th century CE.


Shahani had considered Roberto Rossellini and Robert Bresson as major influences on his work and those who he learned the most from. When comparing the two he stated, "There is austerity in Bresson. But there is a possibility in cinema to have both: austerity and ornamentation. In Bresson, there is mainly austerity even though he aspires to have spectacle. When I work along those lines, I want the ornamentation to stand out. The magic of that reality must appear and we ought to allow that to happen. The notion of ornamentation that we have in India, the alankar, of how we play with it, that is something I like to retain in my work. And this is not there either in Rossellini’s work or Bresson’s in the works of Catholic filmmakers. When they move towards austerity, they really move towards it: Bresson in the tradition of St Augustine and Rossellini more in the manner of notational narratives." [2]

Roberto Rossellini Italian film director and screenwriter

Roberto Gastone Zeffiro Rossellini was an Italian film director, screenwriter, and producer. Rossellini was one of the directors of the Italian neorealist cinema, contributing to the movement with films such as Rome, Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), Germany, Year Zero (1948), and General Della Rovere (1959).

Robert Bresson was a French film director. Known for his ascetic approach, Bresson contributed notably to the art of cinema; his non-professional actors, ellipses, and sparse use of scoring have led his works to be regarded as preeminent examples of minimalist film.

For his film Tarang which dealt with labour issues, Shahani mentioned he consciously tried to avoid 'repeating' or 'imitating' one of his favourite films Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Shahani stated, "for Tarang for instance, I was shooting a strike sequence. It was an obvious point where one could have quoted Eisenstein. Most filmmakers in such a situation would do so, inadvertently and unconsciously. Even the most "bourgeois" filmmakers as it were, the most commercial ones, or their exact opposites, would all do that. That is why one should remember him, to remember what he did and not to repeat it. So I remembered him while I was shooting that sequence, constantly like a prayer. We can't help saying that Eisenstein did it such a way and let only him do like that. That is why I feel very happy with that particular sequence in Tarang. It doesn't have, in any sense, an imitation of Eisenstein." [2]

Sergei Eisenstein Soviet filmmaker

Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was a Soviet film director and film theorist, a pioneer in the theory and practice of montage. He is noted in particular for his silent films Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1928), as well as the historical epics Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible. In its decennial poll, the magazine Sight & Sound named his Battleship Potemkin the 11th greatest movie of all time.

<i>Battleship Potemkin</i> 1925 film directed by Sergei Eisenstein

Battleship Potemkin, sometimes rendered as Battleship Potyomkin, is a 1925 Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It presents a dramatized version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against its officers.



1965The Glass PaneGraduate Diploma film
1967Manmad Passengershort film
1969A Certain Childhoodshort film
1970Rails for the Worldshort film
1971Objectshort film
1972 Maya Darpan Winner Filmfare Award – Best Film (Critics)
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi [7]
1973Fire in the Bellyshort film
1976Our Universeshort film
1984 Tarang National Film Award – Special Jury Award (Certificate) [8] [9]
1987Vaar Vaar Vaarishort film
1989 Khayal Gatha Winner Filmfare Award – Best Film (Critics)
Winner FIPRESCI Prize – Rotterdam International Film Festival
1989A Ship Agroundshort film
1990 Kasba Winner Filmfare Award – Best Film (Critics)
1991BhavantaranaOriya documentary film about Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra
National Film Award for Best Biographical Film [10] [11]
1997 Char Adhyay Hindi film based on Tagore novel
2000The Bamboo Flute
2004As the Crow Flies



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  1. Ashish Rajadhyaksha. "Dossier on Kumar Shahani". academia.edu. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Winds From the East. "Interview With Kumar Shahani", Retrieved on 17 June 2014.
  3. Homi Bhabha Fellowships Council. "Mr. Kumar Shahani", Retrieved on 2 March 2009.
  4. Upperstall.com Profile. "Kumar Shahani Upperstall Profile", Retrieved on 2 March 2009.
  5. House of World Culture. "Kumar Shahani", "Culturebase The International Artist Database" Retrieved on 2 March 2009.
  6. G.K, "Musings of a Marxist," "The Hindu", Retrieved on 2 March 2009.
  7. "20th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India . Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  8. "31st National Film Awards". India International Film Festival . Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  9. "31st National Film Awards (PDF)" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals . Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  10. "39th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India . Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  11. "39th National Film Awards (PDF)" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals . Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  12. "The 5th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art", Retrieved on 2 March 2009.