Mani Kaul: Versatile, genre-hopping film-maker

Mani Kaul was a genre-hopping film-maker whose success came the hard and hard-line intellectual way, via India's so-called "parallel cinema". Like Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen and Kumar Shahani but more so, he never espoused the popular route to success, even though he enjoyed critical and some commercial acclaim. Not in the mainstream, not quite an outsider, his oeuvre embraced serious, non-commercial cinema – frequently based on books or dramas – documentary film, especially on musical subjects, and the culturally daring. Sen lauded him simply as "one of the finest film-makers in India."

Of Kashmiri stock, Kaul's uncle was the actor and film director Mahesh Kaul. Having graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), where he studied under the Bengali film-maker Ritwik Ghatak, in 1966, Kaul knew full well the importance of the cineaste audience interested in serious film. Film societies up and down the country screened his 1969 debut Uski Roti ("Our Daily Bread"). It won the 1971 Filmfare Critics Award for best movie. (These awards had been inaugurated in 1954 by the Bombay magazine Filmfare.)

In 1972 Kaul won for Ashadh Ka Ek Din ("One Day Before the Rainy Season", 1971), adapted from Mohan Rakesh's 1958 modernist Hindi play of the same name. In 1974 he won for Duvidha ("In Two Minds", 1973), based on Vijayadan Detha's retelling of a traditional Rajasthani ghost story. In 1993 he won again for Idiot (1992), his retelling of Dostoevsky's tale.

With the National Film Award-winning Siddheshwari (1989) he turned his attention to the classical thumri- singer Siddheshwari Devi. This Hindi-language documentary broke with conventional representational biographical narrative, blending music and fiction.

Earlier had come his full-length film on another genre of Northern Indian classical music. Dhrupad (1982) featured vocalist Zia Fariduddin Dagar and the rudra vina (stick zither) virtuoso Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. Its closing roofscape sequence juxtaposed the everyday modern city and dhrupad's ancient relevance. The documentary also included ZM Dagar's son, Bahauddin Dagar. Kaul brought him, the by-then leading rudra vina player of his generation, back into the fold for his "chapter" in the German producer Regina Ziegler's series exploring international takes on erotic tales.

Ken Russell did it the British way with The Insatiable Mrs Kirsch. The Cloud Door (1994) did it the Indian way, with Kaul melding Hindu and Muslim literary traditions in his tale.

Kaul also spent periods overseas: he was on the jury of the 1971 Berlin International Film Festival, and lectured at Harvard, Berkeley and at FTII.

Rabindranath Kaul, film director: born Jodhpur, Rajasthan 25 December 1944; married (two sons, two daughters); died Gurgaon, New Delhi 6 July 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration Engineer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Logistics and Supply Chain

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Sheet Metal Worker / Fabricator

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral