27 July, 2021

Which Way To Ramgarh?

Hindi film’s parallel reality is not a utopia, but an atopia. Where’s that, you ask? That’s precisely the point.

Which Way To Ramgarh?

The kitsch classic Dharmatma is lighting up the TV set with its white heat. Our ersatz Godfather, it has all the ’70s baubles: gold biscuits, imitation palazzos, purple-tinted fountains in the living room, psychedelic wallpaper, spiral stairs, denim flares, the obligatory pseudo-Afro python dance, drop-dead gorgeousness all around. And, fittingly for a film in which both hero and villain are ethnic Pathans, there’s Afghanistan’s shimmering Band-e-Amir. (This fact ensures the film a footnote in pop history: its shooting schedules prevented us from seeing a Sikkimese Gabbar Singh.) It also has plenty of that other black art of the Bombay school of magic realism: you see the city skyline through the windows (there’s even a Jackal-style sniper attack from the opposite building), but once you step out, whoosh...no city! Just wide open tundra and taiga, cliffs and hillside lakes—a pasteurised, calendar art Promised Land, peopled only by the odd convertible and chopper.

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