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Party: A Tale Of Claustrophobia

By Editorial Team • Published on September 7, 2007

The characters are so real‘¦and the acting so subtle‘¦Party does not come across as a film‘¦it felt as if I was part of the party, mingling around with the crowd out there and sharing their lives over a cup of tea, writes Anamika Bhatnagar on Govind Nihalani’s 1984 film

Govind Nihalani's Party 1984I came across an unusual film on Internet yesterday. It is called PARTY — a film directed by Govind Nihalani in 1984 — it is part of the New Wave cinema that swept the Indian film industry during the 1980s. I have been a huge fan of New Wave and have tried to watch almost all its participants but somehow Party had eluded me.

What attracted me to the film was its title — Party — a synonym with today’s Page 3 culture‘¦Party was made in 1984 and by Govind Nihalani featuring almost all the major and upcoming New wave artistes. It sounded like an interesting combination.

Party is a film about a party that is thrown in the honour of a successful playwright who wins the National Literary Award for the year. It peeks into the lives of upper class art society of Bombay and their views and takes on lives. The film begins with these characters getting ready to leave for the party and gives us an insight into their personal lives and attachments. During the party, there are so many stories/sub-plots going on that it is difficult to single out one. However the main topic of discussion during the party is not the awarded playwright but a promising poet-activist called Amrit who has given up writing poetry and moved into actual activism for the cause of tribals. The core of discussion revolves around the difference between expression of opinion and implementation of the opinion. It revolves around the artist’s belief/social commitment and his own capacity to practise what he preaches or writes about. The discussion gets deeper and deals with basic principles of the duality of an artist that he is a human being along with being an artist and would these two dimensions of himself ever have a different opinion on an issue and if there was a difference, whose opinion would ultimately prevail — the artist or the human.

The film is deeply engaging in these thoughtful discussions and is reflective of the times it was made in. There are constant references to literary giants of the time like Rushdie and Naipaul and the differences between them. People participating in the party comes from diverse backgrounds — Agashe is a popular playwright who writes plays for the middle aged women (and they are tremendously popular), Vrinda is a Marxist who lives in her father’s palatial house, Ruth is a newspaper chief who is constantly accompanied by a younger boyfriend, Mohini who was a successful theatre actress and is now living with the awarded playwright Barve. These characters, although successful in their fields, are plagued by their own insecurities, and are living venomous and hurtful creatures. They don’t miss an opportunity to be sarcastic or be needy when faced with a tempting gesture. Vrinda is plagued by her growing age and lack of a partner, Mohini with the lack of love in her life and self esteem, Barve with the emptiness in his writings. The characters are so real‘¦and the acting so subtle‘¦Party does not come across as a film‘¦it felt as if I was part of the party, mingling around with the crowd out there and sharing their lives over a cup of tea.

Nihalani’s camera work is engaging. More than 60% of the film is shot in one location — the house where the party is held. Nihalani uses close ups and smooth camera movements to keep the viewer’s attention engaged. Of course, the performances play their part in keeping the viewer engrossed. Rohini Hattangadi is brilliant in the portrayal of Mohini. The scene where she takes off her clothes and offers herself to Barve is very powerful.

The highlight of the film is its ending‘¦that shows the appearance of the character Amrit‘¦his character has been discussed throughout the film but he appears for only 2 minutes towards the end and leaves a mark. The film leaves you with a sense of claustrophobia. It is a film about questioning oneself, one’s approach and thinking to many issues of life — personal and public and everyone will have something to take from this film.

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