Paanch (2001/unreleased) – A Film Review

I understand why Paanch was banned by the Indian Film Censor Board but I would have allowed it to be released with an A rating in India and R rating in other parts of the world. It is brutal but also insightful and creatively made cinema. Its makers should have been allowed to try earning a profit, though like Gulaal it may have ended up a flop.

The starting and ending of this film are well worded comments, though only the ending is Hindi as well as English. Also, the starting does not mention the plot whereas the ending includes a written statement of what happened to one character. But that should have happened to the character immediately rather than 8 months after the final sequence. Perhaps the ending was factoring in the long legal protocol sometimes gone through for such a happening.

One man primarily perpetrates the brutality in Paanch. He is the lead vocalist (and probably lyricist) among the titular “five” members of a rock band. The brutality is of five sorts: violence; threats of violence; statements denigrating sexual organs, vulval births and prostitutes; descriptions of sexual organs in abused states; statements alleging incestuous relations. Thus this film depicts one aspect of the human world very accurately. Some people are brutal whereas others avoid brutality.

All other male members of the rock band focused on by the film are afraid of the consequences that are possible if they engage in violence. The man bullied most by the film’s most brutal man is particularly afraid. But the last shot containing the bullied man has him bravely hold one arm of his crush, perhaps because he  partly perceives going to jail as something he is doing for his crush. That moment is fine cinema.

My education in understanding films, fiction as well as non-fiction, is very solid. This implies noting not just messages of a film, but also noting whether it’s aesthetically pleasing and technically creative (or technically perfect in the commonplace sense) aspects. Sometimes what I note is actually an assumption. For instance after hearing one band member claim that the key for accessing the money stolen by their band couldn’t be found, I thought what seemed to be an item lying on the floor of a swimming pool was the key. But this assumption was later proven redundant. On the other hand, I correctly noticed the butchering of two dead bodies and feeding of them to scavengers as the organic continuation of one character’s throwing of leftovers to crows.

Note that I will now name characters of the film without actually identifying them, in the hope that you will then want to experience the film yourself.

The last 19 minutes and 18 seconds of this film were disappointing due to some of the plot twists during them. But even they have some fine cinematic moments. A lot of Luke’s dying body becomes hidden in darkness and his final action, while chilling instrumental music that sounded to me like crows cawing plays, is letting his head collapse on the ground and thus hiding his face too. The singing and dancing of Shivli as a bandless star is presented as a case of copyright infringement, because her song and some of her dance moves are Luke’s. What disappointed me were the film’s claims that Luke had not been killed by Joy (or that Luke had fooled Joy into believing he had been successful in suffocating Luke?) and that Joy and Pondi had not cared to check one last time before leaving the motel whether Luke’s body was still floating in the swimming pool. I have realized that the latter claim is logical, because Joy and Pondi would have wanted to avoid being seen near what they thought to be Luke’s dead body. But I was hoping and expecting that the conclusion of the film would instead be Murgi and Shivli retrieving the money from wherever they had stashed it and getting arrested in the act of doing so. I had begun to think that a moment before the last 19 minutes and 18 seconds was also not believable, but I have realized that it was a moment acted by the characters involved. Discover that moment on almost for free. The only charge that shall be levied on you for seeing+hearing this film there will be the one for using an internet connection. And even that can be avoided by doing exactly what this film advises against –crime. The criminal act in this case would be using some one else’s internet connection without their/his/her permission. Sometimes permission is acquired by legal payment. So go ahead and invest that much into this film.

Nirbhay Bhogal

Image Source:[]