Red Swastika–the Review

39 Comments

Readers of RTDM will know my fondness for independent, avant-garde Hindi cinema —the movies that don’t make it to the multiplexes, the movies that do not have songs shot in Paris, the movies that have to rely on the strength of their stories and the histrionic abilities of their actors to make an impact.

Yes I am talking about my love for classics like “Naughty Boy”, Nabh Kumar Raju’s “Topless–it takes more than guts to reach the top” and “Laila”. And today,I am proud to announce yet another addition to my “must-see library” : Vinod Pande’s “Red Swastika”.

In 2005, I first heard of “Red Swastika” when Howitzer award-winning India Daily’s famous reporter Lara Larani announced: Mona Chopra strips full top to bottom in Vinod Pande’s Red Swastika setting precedence in India. Needless to say, I had every intention of catching “Red Swastika” —having missed “Alam Ara” when it was first released (I had not been born then), I was not about to miss the next stage of desi celluloid evolution.

Inspired in turn by “I Spit On Your Grave”, “Basic Instinct” and “Sixth Sense”, “Red Swastika” is immensely original. A story of a crazed pyscho-killer (played by the sultaness of skin Mona Chopra aka Sheryln Chopra aka Menaka Chopra) who paints a red swastika on the foreheads of her victims while engaging in a cat-and-mouse game with a magazine editor (played by the “Dardi Rab Rab Kardi” Deepsikha) for reasons I cannot divulge, “Red Swastika” treads clear of the confusion and convolutions of most murder thrillers, instead choosing to hang its whole story on one plot-hook: the killer’s idiosyncratic defect of speech which leads to her saying: “Sexth Sense…sorry Sixth Sense” every few sentences. Very Freudian. Do not however let the apparent simplicity fool you: “Red Swastika” has enough suspense to keep you at the edge of your seat: Will Ms. Chopra wear a red bra or black? Will she display her cleavage now or a few minutes later? Will the man say “darling” or “baby? Will Ms. Chopra overact or will Deepsikha? Is this scene the most idiotic one in the movie or is it yet to come?Should I stop the movie here or are there some “good parts” still remaining?

One of the biggest challenges sensual movie-makers have to deal with is the contrary pull of a Victorian censor board and the demands of the audience. The director, Vinod Pande manages to walk the tightrope with a bit of celluloid legerdemain. In the principal bedroom scene involving Ms. Chopra, the camera moves around so cleverly between light and shadow that though the audience thinks that it is looking at the actress’s exposed bosom, it is actually the male actor’s bare “man breasts” that is being captured on camera. The illusion of them being attached to the woman is created principally through camera movement, innovative lighting, the intricately choreographed  juxtaposition of male-female bodies and strategically-placed bedsheets. This way the censor board is mollified and so is the audience.

When I saw “Raqeeb” my “sexth sorry sixth sense” thought it would be tough for anyone to touch its class, at least in 2007. I was wrong. “Red Swastika” does it. Without breaking even a little sweat.

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39 thoughts on “Red Swastika–the Review

  1. Indeed “Freudian” … Wont be surprised to find a tinge of “Oedipus” / “Electra” syndrome in the next flick ! And that’s when (as you say) Freud in his nameless casket, shall start “de-composing” his theories !

  2. One would like to mention other ground-breaking cinema which have been neglected so far due to the public focus on idiotic NRI romances. There is a gem called DANCE PARTY which came out in the early nineties. Some others which come to mind are Mithunian classics like HITLER and MILITARY RAAJ.
    There are surprisingly mainstream movies like LAAL BAADSHAH starring Amitabh no less which have largely missed your critical acclaim. Actually any of the latest Prosenjit type bangla movies could also deserve some of your attention.

  3. Thought the producer did not find enough distributors to release the film in India. I am keen to know how did at least one print of this movie reach overseas. Because, I am strongly believe that you did not indulge in downloading pirated stuff from the net.

  4. Hey as usual, fantastic review of another pointless no-brainer of a movie …. one does wonder how patient you are to keep watching such crap week after week! …. but it certainly elicited from me a laugh or two.

  5. Vinod pande is an unsung genius- lighting, shadows using “man-breasts” lol!
    BTW, i wonder if you would know why ur blog doesnt load properly on a firefox 2.0??? :((

  6. Man, Kudos to your energy and patience. How do you maintain your brain and mental balance after seeing all this month after month?

    God Bless you sir!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Hi GB, waiting for ur review on Aap Ki Surrrrooooorrr. I don’t have the required level of guts or stomach to see that movie. Please review that movie for all the timid souls like me.

  8. Dude arent you married? What does your wife say when you watch such artistic and classic films? And oh yes, waiting for “aap ka suroor – the moviee: the real luv story” review. I guess I have bungled up the ‘-‘ and the ‘:’ and a few words. Never mind.

  9. Hi GB, Indian governemnt announced that whoever watches aap ka suroor three times in a single day will be awared paramveerchakra. why don’t u try that?

  10. My God!!
    I do admire your raw Guts…
    Gunda and now this ..all this within a few days…
    U R one helluva fan.of Serious indian classic movies..

  11. @greatbong
    no worries…am gonna read this page in the basic view instead. great blog, bong!
    “View/page style/no style” :))

  12. GB,
    That was an amazing review of an awesome movie. 😀
    Where do you get all that patience and energy to watch and bear such crappy.. oops.. classy cinema? 😀 Too good..

    Regards.
    Ganga

  13. I presume by his techniques with the camera tht Vinod Pande was classmates with Lucas or someone, just tht he got a alate n low budget start
    this ms. chopra is quite a thng, adn one can definitely maintain his mental balance after seeing her
    wtever th movie was it shud b better than Jhoom Barbaar atleast, tht was orrible

    @mithunda

    FF 2.0 not workin!!! mayb try out removing a few crappy plugins u mite have installed, will help

    @greatbong

    we had a gunda get together as per ur recommendations, its awesome

    Hail Kanti Shah :))

  14. Vinod Pande remains a curious study for off-Bollywood movie enthusiasts that can digest a bit of skin show – all for the serious cause of non-mainstream ‘realistic’ cinema. As Parveen Babi ran in slow-motion on a beach wearing a teeny-weeny bikini (NO sarong wrap!) apparently for an ad-shoot (within the movie) in “Yeh Nazdeekiyan”, Bollywood was apparently shaken by this avant-garde director.

    Next I noticed Pande was in late 80s where I had to lower my just-broken voice to ask for the “Sach” VHS from the friendly neighborhood rental shop. He also started appearing in the movies, especially in the ‘bold scenes’, possibly to retain the cinematic integrity of the average, middle-class, bored character that seeks solace outside marital relationship in the arms of flabby one-film wonders like Anuradha Sawant.

    Next was actually a pretty well-made TV detective serial “Reporter” that re-launched Sekhar Suman in a new media.

    I am yet to watch “Red Swastika”, but I surely want to watch it, for Mona Chopra’s brutal honesty and impeccable professional roadmap, if for nothing else. She reportedly said – “Who will notice me if I don’t expose? I have therefore decided to do these bare-dare scenes at the beginning of my career. Once I have caught people’s attention, I will concentrate on acting rather than exposure. I will have to expose at first; only then will people know me and respect me as an actress.”

    That’s what I call extreme makeover. That’s how Ravi Shastri made his career. Started as a spinner to take 3 wickets in his first 4 balls in the debut test, and once established, quietly moved to the opening batsman slot and took things really easy!

    When are they calling Mona in the IIM where they had Laloo invited as guest teacher?

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  19. while reading ur review i cud not help myself from envying you since you watched it till “the end”!!! how i and my roomate groaned and cursed when the cablewallah decided to stop tolerating it right after the police officer was killed (after the night u described so well)!!! kudos to the director and of course you (the only person who watch it till the climax)!!

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