Quick Thoughts: Food, Water And Shelter (Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, 1974)
After his father retires, Bahrat, who struggles to get a job despite his degree in engineering, is passed on the responsibility of his family’s well being.
How do I describe this movie… Imagine if Sergio Leone took an awful lot of LSD and decided to make a ‘Spaghetti Musical’, but got lost on his way to the set and found himself in India, then you come close to understanding the formal insanity of this film. But, that’s not to say that this is a bad movie; this is truly terrific.
As with many Bollywood movies, Roti Kapada Aur Makkan blends just… all of the genres into an epic show with elements of social and philosophical commentary. In such, there are aspects of horror, romance, action, war, musical and thriller in this movie. It is primarily a romance however; one that utilises many archetypal tropes of the Bollywood film – those being strained parent-children relationships as well as themes of responsibility, work, spiritual and material worth and patriotism. These elements bring in this film’s social commentary that is focused on education and the purpose of a university degree, moreover, a critique of corruption and inequality. Counterbalancing this are allusions to a patriotic, somewhat socialist, duty in the youth of India. This idea is captivated by the title of this movie, “Food, Clothing and Shelter”. This refers to the basic needs of people and was a catchphrase of a Pakistani socialist part in the 1970s election – a reference that seems to disregard to Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. A socialist ideal is then captivated by this movie through a generated sense of community and sentiments of self-sacrifice combating selfish corruption and monopolistic oppression.
Added to this solid subtext are what make this film truly great; the songs, visuals and astounding direction. As implied with the reference to Leone, the editing and camera work in this movie are hyper-fantastical and hyper-romantic (a little clunky at times too). Whilst this leaves the action scenes quite amusing but equally ridiculous, all other aspects of this narrative are not only entirely immersive and perfectly entertaining, but ingeniously designed. There are honestly too many unique and strange aesthetic and formal choices in this film for me to discuss fully, so you’ll just have to see this for yourself. However, suffice to say that the cinematic language in this film is incredibly abnormal, but precisely effective.
There is little more I can say about this film other than I thoroughly enjoyed it like no other recent film that comes to mind. If you ever feel like you’ve more or less seen everything that cinema has to offer, certainly give Roti Kapada Aur Makaan a go.
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