A mix of fiction and reality, and memory and imagination as Shyam Benegal weaves a complex drama full of literary qualities, but somehow isn’t compelling enough to get into.
Dir. Shyam Benegal
1992 | India | Drama/Romance | 129 mins | 1.85:1 | Hindi
Not rated – likely to be PG13
Cast: Rajit Kapoor, Raghuvir Yadav, Siraj Ahmed
Plot: On a lazy afternoon, a man shares his memories of a storyteller friend who once narrated a convoluted love story with intertwined plots.
Source: National Film Development Corporation
Subject Matter: Moderate – Love, Class, Storytelling
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
I’ll probably anger some fans of Shyam Benegal who love this film and regard it as a masterpiece, but I think this is a mixed bag and not as consistently compelling as some of the director’s finest works such as Ankur (1974) and Nishant (1975).
It was hard for me to fully immerse myself into the narrative, and perhaps part of the reason why is its structure, which centres on Manek, a young man who recounts (to three friends he has over for what appears to be a casual literature retreat) of several interrelated love stories that he remembers from the recent past.
Challenged to tell something fascinating, Manek, a born storyteller it seems, effortlessly narrates the stories of three women from different socioeconomic backgrounds who are pressured to marry for different reasons.
For much of The Seventh Horse of the Sun, Benegal tries to render Manek’s oral work cinematic with varying success. There are a few moments of sublime beauty e.g. a wedding procession through a town, but the film’s structure doesn’t leave enough room for experimentation as everything connects back to Manek’s perspective, sometimes in a repetitive way. (He’s also quite a smug person and not immediately relatable).
It’s a complex drama, though some might use the term ‘convoluted’ instead, as various plotlines intersect. The film is a mix of fiction and reality, and memory and imagination, no doubt full of literary qualities, but despite its mythological title, the picture doesn’t seem to execute anything even half-close to any feeling of transcendence.