Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

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PsycheDelhi – As Mad House as Art House

A few words om the excellent art house movie PsycheDelhi by Surya Dash.

 

If Godard and Tarkovsky had conceived an illegitimate child, with an anarchist bohemian Brahmin capturing the surrealist copulation on camera round the back of a chowk in the Indian capital, the offspring might look something like PsycheDelhi.

Delhi is usually perceived as a little rough around the edges by foreign visitors, not least thanks to its unbreathable air, but Surya Dash’s sprawling, poetic and occasionally tense epic Noir take on just about everything that irks liberal Indians brings depth and beauty to the grime and venal corruption that snakes through the city like a main circuit cable plugged straight into the country’s establishment, be it political, religious or freelance moralistic.

PsycheDelhi meanders through this darkness of forlorn hopes and dreams of characters – a prime minister, a poet, a gay urbanite and a Tibetan refugee – that are so tied down by system and social circumstance that they can barely move, even when they are on the run. Just before their stories hit rock-bottom, the film swerves to the left into mesmerizing sequences of city life, subtly infused with political anger, that manage to be more poignant than the violence a lesser film maker might have been tempted into.

The film is a crime story of sorts, with a detective of sorts, wearing trilby and personal tragedy with equal conviction. More Lew Archer than Sherlock Holmes, our PI guides us high and low and in between, but always further into the Noir. Dash takes narrative clues, consciously or otherwise, from classic Noir novels of the 60s. We are not really interested in who done it because we are all doing it. Instead, we look at the pathetic humanity of small losers (and that includes the befuddled PM) who have thoughts of happiness and dignity dashed quicker than your street corner cop can raise his lathi.

PsycheDelhi revels in the sublime knowledge that it has the power to infuriate reactionaries at home, while telling a heartbreaking story universal enough to deserve an international audience.

Watch PsycheDelhi here.

Photo taken at Puri premiere of PsycheDelhi at Honey Bee Restaurant. With (left to right) Debu Tripathy, Laure Siegel, myself and Surya Dash.

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