June 30, 2018

Movie review of 'Nude'

Have you ever witnessed an exhibition of nude paintings? What is your first reaction? Do you lower your gaze and turn away out of fear of appearing too brazen? Do you look around to observe reactions from people around you before voicing your own? Or do you stand in silence, lost in reverance for the splendid creation the human body is, a fact that you might have otherwise taken for granted, had it not been for such art?
But how many of you wonder about the model posing for the portrait? About their feelings? Their life? Their experiences and expectations? How many would imagine what it would be like to step into the mind of the artist to understand what he perceives?

I remember the first time I saw a nude painting. I was around thirteen or fourteen then. My parents had enrolled me in this recreational art program during my summer vacations, and that was where I knew Samit, (name changed) a shy and extremely talented boy, a real crackerjack in art class. So when this shy, bespectacled boy with the kind eyes and toothy grin sketched an almost life-like picture of a nude woman, I was shocked.
While a few of the bemused boys in the batch got busy discussing who his inspiration could be, I recall we girls had been embarrassed to even look in the direction of the sketch.
I, who would normally appreciate his paintings had refrained from commenting on that particular work of art. The boy definitely had an artistic bone in him, but this kind of audacity was unexpected. He was stretching it too far, I thought. The news spread and soon enough all the girls (including me) attending the summer program refrained from talking to him. I would often feel guilty of cutting off like that, but the verdict had been passed. Samit was branded a pervert. Ergo I too restricted my interaction with him to the occasional smiles and hellos. A couple of weeks down the line, he stopped attending class. We heard his dad got transferred to another city. The summer vacation ended, and I never saw or heard of Samit after that.

Cut to present day. Facebook tells me that the same 'audacious' boy has made his way into the art world, and is the talk of many art circles in London where he currently resides. He still sketches women, many of them in the nude. But as opposed to giggles and glares from classmates back then, receives accolades and praises now. And I wonder, if all the girls from that summer program are feeling as guilt ridden as me for our behaviour towards him back then. After all, what was his fault really? Was one misunderstood sketch enough to tarnish his otherwise spotless reputation? We'd have never known what went on in his mind back then. He was much too well-mannered to react to our petulance anyway.
Young and easily impressionable, art to us, was black and white, and even the slightest bit of grey (especially from someone of the same age group) was unwelcome.
Luckily (at least for me), over the years, I managed to break out of that mentality...

Growing up came with myriad types of interactions and experiences, which played an important part in  changing my world view and broadening my perspective. Also, discovering my passion for writing made me realise and acknowledge the need to express freely by all other art forms as well...

And Ravi Jadhav's movie, 'Nude', explores the struggle to preserve this very freedom of creative expression.

Yamuna (played by Kalyanee Mulay), a woman who has been ashamed and abandoned by her philandering husband leaves the village and arrives in Mumbai with a teenage son in tow. Seeking shelter with the tough and brazen Kaveri akka (played by Chhaya Kadam), she struggles to find employment, but in vain. Until she discovers her akka's  dark secret; she has been posing as a nude model at the JJ school of arts since the last thirty years. When Yamuna confronts her about it, Kaveri explains to her in a wonderful discourse on the artist’s gaze and perspective, on how the artist sees his muse as a sacred subject of study and worship, until Yamuna is convinced that beyond the surface of the job is genuine intent to preserve the sanctity of art and free expression.

Tempted by the remuneration and discretion the job offers, Yamuna agrees to pose for the students, and soon enough earns not just their respect but their friendship too. However, the clandestine nature of the job proves to become the millstone around her neck. Her son, who is her only reason for living, misunderstands the nature of the job, leaving Yamuna bereft that he never will.

Through ‘Nude’, Ravi Jadhav has explored the nuances of art and human nature. There are a few cliched lines (quipped by Naseeruddin Shah who is obviously playing MF Hussain), but they too manage to move something inside you when heard in context.

The actors have done a commendable job. Chhaya Kadam is brilliant as the staunch and sensible Kaveri Akka, while Kalyanee has played her transformation with finesse. Om Bhutkar has proved his acting prowess, by provoking the audience with his insensitive and perverted character representation. Madan Deodhar does justice to his role, but Kishore Kadam and Neha Joshi are wasted.

Check out this haunting melody, depicting the life of a nude model, sung, written and composed by Sayali Khare...

The film is aided with brilliant and equally sensitive cinematography, from the private art room in the institute to cramped and crowded shanties to the penultimate scene on the beach which with its hard hitting dialogue and intensity manages to leave you with goosebumps.
Personally, I thought the movie should have ended there for maximum effect. In fact, I was quite expecting the credits to roll, leaving the audience in stunned silence. But that didn’t happen.

The last bit could have been avoided as it distracted from the impact the beach scene managed to create. But I guess the director thought differently.
Nevertheless, ‘Nude’ provides that essential glimpse inside the soul of an artist, on the true meaning of art often misinterpreted by a merciless society that is too quick to judge.

I rate it 4 out of 5

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