Film-maker and writer, Mani Kaul, 66, passed away on Wednesday morning, after suffering from a prolonged illness. He breathed his last at 1am at his Delhi home, after being discharged from a hospital on Tuesday night.
An alumnus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, Kaul began his career with the film Uski Roti in 1969, which won the Filmfare Critics Award. Kaul’s most notable work is his documentary, Siddheshwari, which won the National Award for Best Documentary film in 1989.
“With his aesthetic sense of cinematography and immense knowledge of Indian music, Kaul’s cinema was both inspiring and entertaining,” said film-maker Govind Nihalani.
Many film-makers believe that Kaul’s style of film-making was never bound by the demand or taste of the viewer.
“With his ability to think differently, Kaul along with Kumar Shahni carved a niche for themselves internationally. Kaul established a legitimate space for Indian cinema in the global scene,” said Anjum Rajabali, scriptwriter and cinema activist.
Kaul’s other films, including Ashad Ka Ek Din, Duvidha and Idiot, contributed immensely to the parallel cinema movement. While Idiot starred actor Shah Rukh Khan, Duvidha was remade as Paheli with Khan in the lead by film-maker Amol Palekar.
“In my college, Duvidha was screened during class. Inspired by it, I went home and read the original folk story to understand the real genius behind such rich celluloid. While the folk tale was written in a highly dramatic manner, Kaul’s new narrative kept a deliberate distance between the viewer and the emotions of the characters,” said Rajabali.
Kaul left India in the 1980s to teach cinema in colleges across America and Netherlands.
“One of India’s great film-makers. Europeans are more familiar with his work than are Indians,” tweeted film-maker Anurag Kashyap on Wednesday.
“Though Kaul was never a friend, his sense of cinema was extraordinary. He used to take guest lectures on film making and had an impressive reputation amongst his students,” said film-maker Shyam Benegal.
Jeroo Mulla, head of department, Social Communications Media at Sophia Polytechnic, said Kaul was an institution and his path-breaking cinema completely altered the cinematic language.
Twitter was abuzz with condolence messages. “Mani Kaul was one of the pioneers of new wave cinema in India. And a great conversationalist. Will miss his persona. RIP,” read actor Anupam Kher’s post.