Kumar Shahani

Born in Larkana in Pakistan and settled in India after partition, Kumar Shahani graduated from the University of Bombay and the FTII. He was a student under the historian D. D. Kosambi at the University and Ritwik Ghatak at the FTII. He further studied filmmaking in France and also assisted the legendary filmmaker Bresson on Une Femme Douce and also took part actively in the May 1968 movements in France. His first feature film Maya Darpan is considered as India's first formalist experiment.

Notable films:

Maya Darpan- 1972 - Hindi
(Mirror of Illusion)

In his debut feature film, Kumar Sahahani employs highly innovative forms for depicting the conflict between oppressive feudal norms and a changing industrial landscape while making female sexuality and its complex mindscape the focus. The protagonist, Taran, the younger daughter of a Rajasthani zamindar revolts against the social code set by the class system by a sexual encounter with an engineer.

This film was one of the earlier and successful experimentation in colour during the advent of New Indian cinema.

Direction & Screenplay: Kumar Shahani
Cast: Aditi, Anil Pandya, Kanta Vyas, Iqbalnath Kaul
Cinematography: K K Mahajan
Music: Bhaskar Chandavarkar

Tarang - 1984 - Hindi
(The Wave)

Rahul, the son-in-law of an old industrialist and one of the heirs to his fortune, clashes with Dinesh, the industrialist's nephew who is openly unscrupulous. Rahul, on his part, conceals his personal ambition under a cloak of liberalism and encourages indigenous production. In the centre of the conflict sits the wily old man with money as his sole concern. His daughter Hansa watches him like a hawk, for he is the only man she has ever completely loved. Into this tense family enters Janaki the widow of a trade union leader, who has once lead agitations against the management of the industry, thus making everything more complicated.

Direction & Screenplay: Kumar Sahahni
Cast: Smita Patil, Amol Palaker, Girish Karnad, Om Puri
Cinematography: K K Mahajan
Music: Vanraj Bhatia

Kasba - 1990 - Hindi

A melodramatic film, Kumar Shahani's Kasba is based on a short story by Anton Chekov. Maniram, an entrepreneur in a small town has made his fortune by adulterating food. His business is run by Tejo, the wife of his mentally retarded younger son. His elder son, who is involved in a business of printing counterfeit currency in Delhi comes back to his hometown and gets married. However, he gets drunk on the marriage night and later leaves to Delhi, where he gets arrested. Police cracks down on Maniram's business while Tejo ruthlessly takes over the local power.

Direction & Screenplay: Kumar Sahahni
Cast: Shatrughnan Sinha, Mita Vasisth, Manohar Singh, Alakananda Samarth
Cinematography: K K Mahajan
Music: Vanraj Bhatia

Char Adhyay - 1997 - Hindi

Based on Rabindranath Tagore's novella written in 1934, Shahani's film is set in the terrorist phase of the Indian freedom movement. Ela has allowed herself to be turned into a walking, talking, living mascot for a group of terrorists; a comforting female presence for youth whose self-respect has been lacerated by the experience of colonial domination. The ideologue uses Ela's beauty and dignified bearing to project the resurgent spirit of the country.

Having abandoned their own mothers, sisters and wives, these `knights-errant' are ready to loot and to commit suicide and murder for the sake of the cause. At first Ela exults in her glorification, but then begins to question it when one in the group, Atin, resists indoctrination. He refuses to sublimate his feelings for Ela and is filled with revulsion at the terrorists' deeds. They reach for simple happiness, but by then they are both in too deep and must play their roles to the hilt.

Direction & Screenplay: Kumar Sahahni
Cast: Nandini Goshal, Sumant Chhattopadhyay
Cinematography: K K Mahajan
Music: Vanraj Bhatia


  • Maya Darpan (1972)
  • Tarang (1984)
  • Khayal Gatha (1988)
  • Kasba (1990)
  • Bhavantharana (1991)
  • Char Adhyay (1997)

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