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.