21 March 2010

Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda / Seventh Horse of the Sun (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 1992, India) - The Unreliable Narrator

The first of Benegal’s films to receive state funding (NFDC), Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda’s resonance comes from a sophisticated use of narrative subjectivity. Comparable to Kurosawa’s Rashomon in its gradual and shifting points of view, this is a moving examination of the storytelling process and one of the rare occasions that Benegal has explored cinema as a construct. The narrator, Manek (Rajit Kapur), is not only unreliable but his perception of the truth concerning the three beguiling female centred stories he relays to his friends is questioned throughout, culminating in a genuinely cryptic ending that seems to unravel the entire film making process. Though Rashomon may serve as a direct inspiration, the cinema of Kiarostami seems closer if one was to contextualise Benegal’s masterpiece as it poses fundamental questions that concerns film making and cinema – whose truth is being represented, how is it constructed and how should we respond as a spectator? This is what academic Sangetta Datta has to say about the film in her accomplished appreciation:
‘The title is also a clue to the film. The seventh horse of the sun is the youngest; he moves perpetually towards the future, towards light. The title itself signifies the concept of time with the Hindu myth of the sun god riding in his chariot driven by seven white horses. Man will constantly be drawn towards love and imagination; lives will always be lived and stories will always be told.’
BFI World Directors: Shyam Benegal, Sangeeta Datta, 2002: 199

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