Mani Kaul

Born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Mani Kaul graduated from the FTII where he was a student of Ritwik Ghatak and later became a teacher. His first film Uski Roti explored new forms of expression, defining much of New Indian Cinema's formal vocabulary. His elaborate theory of contemporary aesthetic practice, 'Seen From Nowhere' was published in the book 'Concept of Space: Ancient and Modern'.

Notable films:

Uski Roti - 1969 - Hindi
(A Day's Bread)

Mani Kaul's debut film is an adaptation of a short story by Mohan Rakesh and is perhaps one of the earliest formal experiments in Indian cinema.

Sucha Singh, a bus driver travels through the dusty Punjabi countryside, while his wife Balo spends long hours waiting for him at the bus-stop with his food packet. One day, her younger sister gets sexually molested, causing Balo to arrive late at the bus-stop with the food packet. Sucha Singh gets upset with her being late, rejects the food and drives away.

Direction & Screenplay: Mani Kaul
Cast: Gurdeep Singh, Garima, Richa Vyas
Cinematography: K K Mahajan

Ashad Ka Ek Din- 1971 - Hindi
(A Monsoon Day)

Mani Kaul's second film too is based on Mohan Rakesh's work featuring the legendary Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, the court poet of Chandragupta II. The film is about the ethical dilemma of an artist in choosing between his loved one and his official duties, and is set in a small hut on a hillside concentrating on three characters: Kalidasa, his lover Mallika and their friend Vilom.

Direction & Screenplay: Mani Kaul
Cast: Arun Khopkar, Rekha Sabnis, Om Shivpuri
Cinematography: K K Mahajan

Duvidha - 1973 - Hindi
(Two Roads)

Based on a Rajasthani folk-tale, Duvidha is the story of a merchant's son who returns home with his new bride, but is sent back to look his family business. A ghost falls in love with the bride and takes the form of her absent husband and lives with her. She gives birth to his child. When the real husband returns home, the real problem starts.

Direction & Screenplay: Mani Kaul
Cast: Ravi Menon, Raisa Padamsee, Hardan
Cinematography: Navroze Contractor
Music: Ramzan, Hammu, Saki Khan, Latif

Siddheswari - 1989 - Hindi

Through different moments in the career of Siddheswari Devi, we are introduced to the 'Thurmi' tradition of music. Young Siddhi lives with her aunt, Rajeswhari, in Benarès. Passionate about singing, she studies, secretly, with the great music teacher, Siyaji Maharaj. Since she dares ask questions, she is banished from her aunt's house. She is taken in by her teacher and soon becomes a famous singer. The eloquence of her expression is without precedent in the history of "Thurmi" music. Though Siddheswari had no real home during half of her life, she manages to attain a place in the world.

Direction & Screenplay: Mani Kaul
Cast: Mita Vasishth, Ranjana Srivastava, Pandit Narayan Misra, Sharavani Mukherjee, Malviya, Anoop Misra
Cinematography: Piyush Shah
Editing: Lalitha Krishna

Nazar- 1990 - Hindi
(The gaze)

Adapted from a story by Dostoievsky. A man reflects on the complexity of his marriage, moving back and forth in time. The woman is created by his wishful imagination. The man believes her to be his possession. He does not realise that she will end up possessing him, particularly when she starts showing signs of an independant life. Silent withdrawals between the man and the woman are the first signs of a split in the couple. Confrontations and reconciliations full of hate, remorse, hope and despair lead to a tragic outcome.

Direction: Mani Kaul
Screenplay: Sharmistha Mohanty
Cast: Shambhavi Kaul, Shekhar Kapur, Surekha Sikri
Cinematography: Piyush Shah
Editing: Lalitha Krishna
Music: Vikram Joglekar, D. Wood

Naukar Ki Kameez - 1999 - Hindi
(The Servant's Shirt)

The civil servant, the Sahib, who lives with his spouse in a colonial-type residence; the chief of the alcohol bureau, Bade Babu, who whiles away his time as he looks for a servant for the Sahib; Santou, the young hero in the film and his wife, whose home is flooded every time it rains because of their leaky roof; through these main characters, the film suggests a network of hierarchical relations between people through sometimes subtle and at other times blunt illustrations.

Direction & Screenplay: Mani Kaul
Cast: Pankaj Mishra, Om Praksh Dwivedi, Anu Joseph, Prem Lal
Cinematography: K U Mohanan
Music: Pushparaj Kosthi


  • Uski Roti (1969)
  • Ashad Ka Ek Din (1971)
  • Duvidha (1973)
  • Ghashiram Kotwal (1979)
  • Satab Se Uthata Admi (1976)
  • Dhrupad (1982)
  • Mati Manas (1984)
  • Siddheshwari (1989)
  • Nazar (1989)
  • Idiot (1991)
  • Naukar Ki Kameez (1999)

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