Smitha Patil is one of the best actors in Indian cinema. Her mastery over the craft is extremely powerful. There are many movies of hers that I really admire. Some of them are Aakir Kyon, Arth, Mandi, Bazaar, Namak Halal, Bhumika, Manthan. The list is so long. Her untimely death deprived us with so much more. Her movie Bazaar is a part of my A2Z list.

Smita Patil along with Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Ratna Pathak, Anupam Kher and a few others pioneered an era of sensitive movies in the 80s and early 90s. These were movies in Hindi and other regional languages of India that were away from the mindless, logic-less movies that were the mainstream blockbuster kind. The movies that these actors worked in were portrayals of real people who were faced with the harsh realities of life. Each of these movies tackled some important social, economic or psychological issues of relevance. These movies were labeled “Art” movies as opposed to “commercial” movies, mainly because these movies did not make a lot of money but won many awards nationally and internationally.

During this times, there were a crop of “Art” directors like Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta and others who took the risk of telling these stories. And we as audience are grateful to them.

Mirch Masala (Chilli and spices) is one of her finest performances. It also stars Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Suresh Oberoi, Dina Pathak, Ratna Pathak and Supriya Pathak. It is set in British era India. Naseer plays a creepy, perverted and cruel subedar (collector) who terrorises the village of uneducated people who are oppressed by him to pay him taxes and have to appease his womanizing ways in order to escape more taxes. Naseer has eyes on Smita who slaps him and hides in a masala karkhana (spices factory). Subedar threatens the villagers with grave consequences if Smita is not handed over to him. The women working inside the factory along with an old watchman (Om Puri) face up to the subedar and all the villagers, who want to hand Smita over to escape the wrath of the subedar. That, in a nut shell is the story.

The experience of the movie is in the layers. The socio-economic conditions of the villagers, the oppression of women at all levels, the illiteracy and the subservient nature of villagers who have no other hope are all explored well in this movie. The state of the women is pathetic. When the village head’s wife opposes his move to give away Smita to appease the subedar, she too gets thrashed. It goes on to show that women, no matter their apparent status, are not treated with respect.

When she first takes refuge in the factory, the women there are not willing to give her shelter for the fear of the wrath of the subedar and the villagers. But by the end, they all get together to fight for a woman’s dignity against the cruel world.

This movie is in a way a tribute to the grit of women in the face of all adversity.

I saw this movie on Doordarshan. I think I already told you about the Sunday 5 pm Hindi movie that we used to wait for. There was another slot on Sundays for movies. That was at 1 pm. This slot was reserved for movies from all languages that have won National Awards. India, as you know has many different languages (22 official languages), and movies are made in most of them. Every year a few movies are chosen and awards are given in different categories. My mother was a big fan of these award winning movies, esp Bengali, Assamese, and Tamil movies. I used to watch them with her. Mirch Masala was screened on one such Sunday.

Catch this movie for the performances of Smita, Naseeruddin and Om Puri. Here is a small scene to peak your interest:

The A2Z challenge 2019 is going to be all the movies that have left an impact on me someway or the other. Some have made me think. Some that I like a lot, some that I really hated. But all of them have left a memory behind which makes the movie more special than the rest. They may not be all classics or iconic but they are close to my heart.

A is for Andhadhun. B is for Bazaar. C is for Conan, the Barbarian. D is for Dushman. E is for Enter the Dragon. F is for Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them.G is for Galimathu.H is for Hidden Figures. I is for Ishq.J is for Jaane bhi do yaaron.K is for Kshana Kshanam.L is for La La Land.