Contemporary Indian avant-garde cinema at its artistic peak, Amit Dutta’s unclassifiable portrait of a famous 18th-century Indian painter is an astonishing poetic and sensorial experience.
Dir. Amit Dutta
2010 | India | Experimental/Biography/History | 82 mins | 1.85:1 | Dogri
Not rated – likely to be PG
Cast: Manish Soni, Nitin Goel, Rajesh. K.
Plot: Inspired by the amazing work of 18th century India’s miniature painter Nainsukh and his biography, the story revolves around the master’s passions and devotions.
Awards: Nom. for Orrizonti Award (Venice)
Source: Reitberg Museum
Subject Matter: Light – Art
Narrative Style: Experimental/Vignette-style
Audience Type: Niche Arthouse
This is why I love MUBI so much. Without it, I might have discovered Amit Dutta only much later.
Nainsukh is a fantastic introduction to the experimental filmmaker and is considered one of his finest works to date. How does one even begin to tell the story of the famous 18th-century Indian painter?
Commissioned by the Rietberg Museum in Zurich, Nainsukh finds the answer in Dutta’s singular avant-garde style, which appears to draw no parallels to anything else in modern cinema, though one might ascribe its artistic precursor to, say, the likes of Parajanov.
Told purely from a film language standpoint, including employing an incredibly-detailed soundscape, precise mise-en-scene and deliberate camerawork, Dutta’s film is an amalgamation of nearly everything in Indian art, from classical music to theatre to dance, as he attempts to locate a transcendental form of realism by representing Nainsukh’s paintings as performative photographic reenactments that move gracefully and operate poetically.
As such, Dutta manages to capture the past, present and the future within his highly-calibrated work exploring space and time.
The past is, of course, the bygone 18th century, as depicted in the paintings; the present is Dutta’s astonishing location work that sees him shoot in the picturesque places where Nainsukh once lived; the future is Dutta’s blazing trail as a filmmaker, radically charting new ways of storytelling and expression.
The film is bookended by similar scenes as we see Nainsukh trying to draw inspiration from nature as the sound of a flowing river drowns out everything else.
As Heraclitus once said, “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.” Dutta seems to subtly acknowledge that through his sensorial film.