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Chaitanya Tamhane’s Dimensions of Sublime Depth

Tamhane’s understanding of the cinematic pacing of time takes his images to a heavenly dilemma between rest and chaos
  • Hrithik Rai

  • Film Companion

Last Updated: 10.51 AM, Aug 30, 2022

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Any disruption in the concept of time brings a turbulent and polarised display of its genesis in cinema. The aroma of a feature film floats coherently with the frequencies of its receptors. Receptors are the consumers of a finished, garnished and flavoured cinematic product who chose to stay with the film.

The dynamics of a film still remain less understood for reasons like the self-absorbed machinery behind it. At the level of the makers, it is a field of manipulation, or as Tamhane says “choreographing expressions and expectations”. A maker can consider the audience either as a consumer or as a propagator of the unfinished resolutions of their films. The most astonishing aspect of Tamhane is his desire to vaporise the known constants of a film canvas. The long driving takes in Abbas Kiarostami’s films, use vehicular middlemen as the prime catalyst to reflect upon the internal journey of the story. The dusky sound design adds to it. Sharad Nerulkar (Aditya Modak) in Tamhane’s The Disciple had been subjected to a similar ride on the bike, with an intriguing voiceover – a haunting reminder of his (Sharad’s) artistic failure. 

The difference between Kiarostami’s long rides and Tamhane’s lies in their understanding of a character’s destination. On a late night, in the empty streets of Mumbai, Tamhane categorically chose to punish his disciple with the teachings of Maai. Teachings which weren’t wrong, but just not meant for Sharad. Every ride took him closer to a delusion of himself and he ultimately submitted to his fears. On the other hand, Kiarostami chooses to establish ease and warmth in those highly conversational rides. 

Magic and illusion have been a major influence in Tamhane’s filmography. Being a student of magic, the staging of brilliance has never left his frames. The static poignant use of the lens, the texture of his light, the use of a city’s smell – all of it has been sowed and later harvested in both Court and The Disciple. There is an ambition in his films to bend time as a constant, linear runner. It gravitates to an ethical form of betrayal against his contemporaries. His understanding of the cinematic pacing of time takes his images to a heavenly dilemma between rest and chaos. 

There is always a new image when you re-watch a Chaitanya Tamhane film. And every frame the canvas holds paints the third dimension – a dimension of sublime depth. 

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