A nasally inclined class of school boys get high on biology as discordant psychedelic blares, jarring sensibilities but also creating new ones.
When the torrent ripped version of 'Om Dar Badar' (1988) started doing the rounds of the ‘butterfly generation’ in the summer of 2010, most art-cinema buffs were blown away by the sheer awesomeoness of director Kamal Swaroop’s vision and ability to layer frames with such surreality. It went on to win best film at the Filmfare Critics Award the next year.
Swaroop says the entire process was exhausting with the script taking three years to develop. Additionally, while filming, the camera broke down and almost half the film had to be reshot.
With a non-linear narrative, Om Dar Badar’s art-house feel comes layered with multiple levels of rebellious satire—of traditions, communication and perspective. Heavily laced with Dadaist influences, Om Dar Badar overturned basic film definition. But back in 1988, a generation still gyrating to Rishi Kapoor may not have been willing to experiment with their heads.
This product of the Film and Television Institute of India’s batch of 1974 said he signed up for the course because he wanted a solid stab at fame. But fame proved elusive for this avant-garde filmmaker when Om tanked at the box office and he never made another movie after. For the next 30 years, Swaroop invested his quirky perspective in networks like Channel V, Star Plus and Cinevista, shunning the features completely.
But the movie hung around, almost like a forbidden drug, influencing a slew of filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap. In other interviews, Kashyap has mentioned the effect Om Dar Badar had on him, paying tribute with a song riff used in Gulaal.
Now Swaroop jokes that he’s gotten envious of Kashyap, and is rolling up his sleeves for another crack at the clapboard. Swaroop has been obsessing about the life and times of Dada Saheb Phalke for many years now and is currently scripting Chandi ka Ghaave, a biopic on the father of Indian cinema. Swaroop is aiming at a 2013 release and says his much-awaited second film will star new faces.
“With arrival of digital film-making, and decentralisation of production, films are no more dependent on the prohibitive fees of a processing lab,” he says, “and more filmmakers will rise to represent various unique cultural and personal historical representations. It is almost a biological need... in this game, money really does not matter. It is a need of the time. A war!”
As avant-garde cinema carves itself a spot in an aggressively commercial industry, it seems like Swaroop’s battle cry is going to echo in many a weird head.