Cast: Saurabh Saraswat, Vinay Sharma, Mrinmayee Godbole, Abhay Mahajan, Geetika Tyagi and Isha Keskar
Director: Kranti Kanade
Quick Take: Out-of-the-box art house surprise
Experimental is the only word you need to describe director Kranti Kanade’s cryptically titled film CRD. The opening shot even has the tile Un Film De Kranti Kanade, a sly allusion to the film’s heavy French and European art house influences. This film is unlike anything you’ve seen before, even if you are familiar with the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean-Luc Godard. Kanade’s out-of-the-box movie is as absurd and enchanting as say Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973), minus the nudity and faeces of course. Watch this and you’re guaranteed to introspect on the question, ‘what did I just see?’ There’s plenty of intellectual stimulation, of course not all of it is as simple as boy-meets-girl.
The story is based on the central character named Chetan Ranjit Deshmukh (Saurabh Saraswat). He’s a budding playwright who joins Ferguson college. Chetan’s primary aim is to win the prestigious Purushottam competition that features college plays. Reluctantly he agrees to audition for and feature as an actor in Mayank’s (Vinay Sharma) play. Mayank is a pass out of the college who keeps returning to direct award-winning plays for Ferguson. Only problem is, Mayank’s a bit unhinged. He likes to torture his motley crew to exact the best of a person’s artistic abilities. It’s like JK Simmons from Whiplash but with sadistic tendencies like R Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket. Mayank likes to shake his subject up till they breakdown. In the process he gets a smooch from Chetan, a bloody sanitary pad from Persis (Mrinmayee Godbole) and some sarcasm from Dipti (Isha Keskar). He gets a variety of reactions to his attempts to beat inhibition. That’s what forces Chetan to break free and stage his own play in competition. Watching Mayank tear up the emotions with his madness makes for an interesting experience. Chetan’s character has his own set of quirks. Interesting characters who talk about myriad subjects like sex, fascism, Marxism, socialism and art in general are unique to Hindi cinema at least. But as you watch these interesting people live out their absurd adventures, you always feel like asking why or what’s the point? A character in the film even makes a point that art is not essential to life. A point that demystifies CRD’s own ambitions per se.
Albert Camus, an influential name during the French art revolution of the ’60s, was one of the pioneers of absurdism. Kanade’s frequently-shape-shifting narrative is like a homage to Camus’ philosophy. Kanade just doesn’t let the linearity of his story stay straight. The perspective of his film keeps changing. There are slo-mo love making scenes, documentary style interviews, sketched cartoon inserts and even stock shots from Amitabh Bachchan’s Deewaar and Kareena Kapoor’s item number in Dabanng 2. The film’s packed with almost every style of filmmaking. It’s interesting because it’s so unique. The editing and the cinematography of CRD is world class. The strength of filmmaking technique makes sure the film looks and feels spectacular.
The set of actors in CRD aren’t the most popular, but they all have the talent to do complete justice to their roles. The performances of Vinay Sharma and Saurabh Saraswat are the strongest. They gel with director Kanade’s experiments effortlessly. In the end, this film is all about the filmmaker’s vision. He takes the most absurd ideas and adds meaning and coherence to them within the framework of his film. That’s the beauty of this film. It’s a bit of a bouncer but one that you can appreciate and admire. But all said and done, this one’s not for the average viewer. A vivid experience of an art film, CRD is inimitable and intensely niche. At times a little too strange for the average and feeble mind.