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Review: 'Cinema Marte Dum Tak' is a love letter to the golden age of pulp cinema being poignant & informative

And hey, I really need to watch the four short films - Jungle Girl, Blood Suckers, Sautan Bani Chudail and Shanti Basera at the soonest as well.

Published: Friday,Jan 20, 2023 15:31 PM GMT-07:00
Updated: Friday,Jan 20, 2023 15:41 PM GMT-07:00
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Cinema Marte Dum Tak

Cinema Marte Dum Tak

'arre vo B-grade filmo mein kaam karta hai', 'B-grade aur C-grade filmo mein sirf sex hi toh hota hai' Even if you haven't been a cinema buff in your lifetime, the aforementioned lines are something you might have heard rather frequently. The advent of technology has exponentially changed things but that is just in the last 15 years. The 80s, 90s and early 2000s relied on theaters and satellite television for entertainment - and Amazon Prime Video's latest docu-series, Vasan Bala's Cinema Marte Dum Tak talks about those 'other' kind of films.

Instead of looking down upon these 'sleazy' & 'nasty' films, the series reverses the lens as it takes a deep dive into the lives of four directors of that genre - J Neelam, Vinod Talwar, Dilip Gulati and Kishan Shah, who not only take us back into those times but are given a chance to revisit their glory years by making a short film each after all these years. Having had the chance to the six-episode series in its entirety, here is what I thought about it-


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You Cannot Write Such Stuff!!

You Cannot Write Such Stuff!!

Names like Gunda, Loha, Jungle Beauty, Sadhu Bana Shaitan, Daku Sultana and much more are synonymous for being infamously famous today. But these films were a legitimate source of entertainment and a parallel industry that was ruling the masses in the 90s and early 2000s. These films would be made in modest budgets and in unbelievably less time (sometimes in four to seven days) - then sold to distributors for particular amounts. Cinema Marte Dum Tak has these four directors and some fine character actors, who were very active on the B and C film circuit back then talking about the logistics of it. Why did they resort to sex to attract viewers? What problems did they have with censorship? What was the state of women in such a world? All these questions are answered as point of views which isn't just fascinating but informative as well. 

If you are a fan of pulp cinema or was acquainted to it in one or another, the pockets of information coming at you will leave you being hooked on to the series more than anything. And even if you are not, the series isn't short of some eccentric real life people revealing anecdotes that chuckle you, puzzle you and at the very least, intrigue you. One of my favorite moments from the series was when director Kishan Shah went on to say, 'you don't need to study to become a doctor. if you work in a dispensary or clinic from the beginning, you will automatically learn everything a doctor knows in a while' I mean, come on, you cannot write such gem lines! And this was with all conviction and seriousness!

The Exploration of Unknown Facets

The Exploration of Unknown Facets

At the face value, these films were known primarily for - raunchy scenes, laughable titles, over-the-top acting, dismal production values and vulgarity. And while all of this held true in every possible way, these directors and so many other crew members who worked on those films open their heart about it with honesty and reasoning. Right from the reason being as emotional as how in the end, it is about any person who is working in whatever capacity he/she can to run his house and feed themselves to something as analytical as what was the target audience for these films and why they worked; these revelations are incredibly captivating to understand and fathom. One of the anecdotes revealed how and when the big-budgeted films would have its own audiences but these smaller films with all the sleaze attached to it was targeted to the remote masses ranging from rickshaw drivers, vegetable vendors etc. 

A point that blew my mind was when a set of people revealed how audiences would schedule their work according to the scenes in these films' runtime. For instance, if a particular film runs for over 2 hours and it has four to five sex scenes, the viewers would time those scenes according to their clocks and make sure to come to only watch them and then leave again once it was done! Porn industry and the accessibility to it was nowhere close to being the way it became in the late 2000s and so on - this was the closest those viewers could get! Wow!

The Man, The Myth, The Legend - Kanti Shah

The Man, The Myth, The Legend - Kanti Shah

I absolutely loved the way this docu series presented the one and only, Kanti Shah. You might have grown up in the most privileged manner but there is a rare possibility you wouldn't have heard about Kanti Shah. Even that was wonderfully set up in an archive video where a student in a respectable college had Shah coming in as a chief guest. Known for absolute freaking gems like Gunda, Loha, Daku Ramkali and Pyaasa Haiwan among others, Kanti Shah became the mythical creature he continues to be. In the docu series, he gets a rousing introduction and it is wonderfully set up where Shah opens up on so many things. Accused for a couple of huge issues where one of them included Dharmendra, Shah gives his side to things where he is as pompous as anyone can be. 

What was called 'bits', which were basically pornographic clips inserted into film prints but only after their censor certification, in order to evade the scenes being cut - Shah gives his clarification on the same. Even more, the four directors that the series is primarily based on, where one of them is his own elder brother, Kishan Shah - they have their set of problems with Kanti Shah which too, the man ridicules entirely. However, the heart-stealing moment arrived when this legend of a man broke down in tears in the penultimate episode talking about how he is an absolutely lonely man and how he literally pays to spend time outside and for people to talk with him. From spending thousands everyday in hotels and bars just to spend 3-4 hours and being as lonely as anyone can be, even in his brief appearance, Kanti Shah takes the cake here here as well.

The Verdict

The Verdict

From talking about the business side of things to giving respect to the people working in this industry; from revisiting the good old days and watching some faces you might not have seen in a long time (Hemant Birje man! The OG Tarzan, it was so amazing to see him and he even stars in one of these short films) to also exploring the vulnerability, struggles and hardships everyone associated ere faced; Cinema Marte Dum Tak is a poignant portrait of these figures that never really glorifies these kind of films or the decisions that makers took during those times and neither does it overly sympathises with how they never got the respect they deserved and so on. And hey, I really need to watch the four short films - Jungle Girl, Blood Suckers, Sautan Bani Chudail and Shanti Basera at the soonest as well.

Rating - **** (4/5)


Dilip Gulati Kanti Shah Kishan Shah Vasan Bala Amazon Prime Video 


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