Mani Kaul

. int.: Our Daily Bread / A Day’s Bread. Sog.: dal racconto omonimo di Mohan Rakesh. Scen.: Mani Kaul. F.: K.K. Mahajan. Mus.: Ratan Lal. Int.: Gurdeep Singh (Sucha Singh), Garima (Balo), Richa Vyas (la sorella di Balo), Savita Bajaj (la padrona di Sucha Singh). Prod.: Rochak Pandit. DCP. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Kaul’s debut film was an adaptation of a short story by the noted Hindi author Mohan Rakesh and is one of the first consistently formal experiment in Indian cinema. Burly bus driver Sucha Singh (Gurdeep Singh) travels through the dusty, flat Punjabi countryside. His wife Balo (Garima) waits hours for him at the bus-stop with his food packet. One day, her younger sister is sexually molested, which delays her. Sucha is upset by her late arrival, rejects her food and drives away. She remains standing at the roadside until nightfall. The original story uses many stereotypes for both its characters and situations. The film, however, integrates the characters into the landscape, evoking an internalised yet distanced kind of realism reminiscent of Robert Bresson – such as the shots from within the bus showing the road and the countryside going by while a little sticker on the window intrudes in the corner of the frame.

Kaul wanted to discover “what was truly cinematic in the filming of a play” and his actors used a minimum of gestures to enact the rigidly notated script. The two registers of Balo’s physical and mental environment are represented by two camera lenses: the 28mm wide-angle deep-focus lens and the 135mm telephoto lens, leaving only a minute section of the frame in focus.

This schema was gradually reversed through the film, making it Indian cinema’s most controlled achievement in image composition. Its use of spatial volume refers to the large canvases of the modernist painter Amrita Sher-Gil, while the soundtrack isolates individual sounds to match the equally fragmented visual details. The film, backed by the Film Finance Corporation, was violently attacked in the popular press for dispensing with the familiar cinematic norms and equally strongly defended by India’s aesthetically sensitive intelligentsia.

Ashish Rajadhyaksha

Copy From

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive