With MOON So-ri at Asia Society NY

With MOON So-ri at Asia Society NY
With MOON So-ri at Asia Society NY

Monday, January 09, 2012

ACF 1297: BARSAAT at MoMA

Raj Kapoor and Nargis
Barsaat / Monsoon (a.k.a. The Monsoons)
Directed by Raj Kapoor
India, 1949, 171 minutes
Where: The Museum of Modern Art
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building
4 West Fifty-fourth Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, NYC

The Raj Kapoor film series at MoMA continues today with the second -- and final -- screenings of two films. (All screenings will be of newly struck 35 mm prints.) The first to be shown is Barsaat, Kapoor's first really big hit. In it he stars as Pran, a composer, musician and romantic idealist. Prem Nath is Gopal, his best friend who regards women solely as means to his own sensual gratification.

Kapoor at the piano in one of the many backlit scenes

The two travel through Kashmir in a huge American convertible. (Ah, for the good old days when the U.S. auto industry was the envy of the world. A remake today would almost certainly use an upscale Japanese or German car.) They become involved with two young local women, Pran with Reshma (single monikered actress Nargis), Gopal with Neela, who is played by 17-year-old Nimmi (again, just a single-named actress) in her first film role.

Nargis (left) and Prem Nath

The movie is historically significant for introducing the "whisper" to Indian commercial cinema, "a type of intimacy and emotional depth unknown at the time." The cinematography is marvelous, with dramatic lighting, often high-contrast and/or backlit. Editing utilizes well-thought out dissolves and cross-cutting. And the music is quite eclectic, including a variety of non-Indian sources.

The second film of the day will be Boot Polish, which I'll review in my next post, ACF 1298.

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