After a decade-long inning peppered with documentaries and TV serials, 33-year-old K.M. Chaitanya has finally made it. His directorial debut film Aa Dinagalu (Back in those days) is running to packed houses. Based on the Bangalore mafia of the 1980s, this Kannada film is as visceral as Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya and yet steers clear of the documentary look and feel of Black Friday.
Up next is another gangster film that’s part of the Don trilogy. If Aa Dinagalu is about the 1980s don Kotwal Ramachandra, the next film will be about Kotwal’s friend-turned-foe M.P. Jairaj, while the third will be based on Oil Kumar (a small-time don who hates both Kotwal and Jairaj).
And if his work-related movie interests are anything to go by, then it’s obvious that this director is inspired by the social underbelly. Here are his five favourite takes on the mafia.
The Godfather trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990): It is the father of all underworld stories. It is very rare that a great classic story in a book form also becomes great when it is translated on screen. What’s more, ‘Godfather 3’ develops the plot further by telling a story about how the underworld don tries to get back into the mainstream. This isn’t there in the book. The film also critiques what is beautiful and stark about migration to the US. It critiques Italian male-dominated society only through its visuals, without using a single word explicitly.
Road to Perdition (2002): The film explores the relationship between a father (Paul Newman) and his two sons (Daniel Craig and Tom Hanks). While trying to save his own son, Hanks goes to this place called Perdition, where the father and son begin to understand each other. But the shadow of the underworld is so strong that leading a normal life becomes impossible. The film has great writing and great treatment.
Road to Perdition (2002)
The Untouchables (1987): It’s hardly an underworld film, it’s more about policemen after a famous gangster who smuggles liquor into a city that prohibits it. Towards the end of the film, Kevin Costner, a cop who’s after the mobster Al Capone, is asked, “What will you do now that they are going to lift Prohibition?” He replies, “I will have a drink.” Everything becomes a farce at the end because the crime itself becomes legitimate over time.
Nayakan (1987): This Tamil film is inspired by the true story of the Mumbai-based Tamil gangster of the 1980s, Varadarajan Mudaliar. It is one of the best scripts that director Mani Ratnam has ever written. He does not depend so much on technical wizardry and great visuals. Instead, he concentrates on the script. He manages to weave a story that is almost mythical. You see the archetype of some characters from Hindu mythology such as the Mahabharata in the film. But he does it very subtly. This was a time when the director was happy being true to the script and letting actors do their job.
Satya (1998): Though the film’s named ‘Satya’, there is very little of Satya in it. ‘Satya’ is actually the screenplay written with screen space for several characters—the corrupt politician, the lawyer, the cop. Everybody is important and, in fact, Satya’s character is almost diminished. The docu-realistic way of shooting with hand-held cameras and natural lighting is so apt. They used a lot of theatre actors who brought improvisation and theatrical dynamics to a feature film. And it had excellent writers: Anurag Kashyap and Saurabh Shukla used words in a way never used before on the big screen.