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Poster for OM DAR-B-DAR
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Director: Kamal Swaroop Run Time: 101 min. Release Year: 1988 Language: Hindi

Starring: Aditya Lakhia, Anita Kanwar, Gopi Desai, Lakshminarayan Shastri, Lalit Tiwari

Om makes a living by holding his breath. He becomes a star attraction during the Pushkar fair by giving darshan to the masses at a fxed time, emerging from the water. A mass movement starts in his name. At a fxed time everybody is going to hold his or her breath as a protest against the Brahma’s big breath. But Om’s non-cooperation is to breathe… and if he breathes in the water… he dies. It’s the murder plan by the water proof watch company.

Om Dar-Ba-Dar is a 1988 Indian postmodernist Hindi film directed by Kamal Swaroop and starring Anita Kanwar, Aditya Lakhia and Gopi Desai in lead roles. The film set in Ajmer and Pushkar in Rajasthan, employed nonlinear narrative and an absurdist storyline to satire mythology, arts, politics and philosophy.

CW: Contains some unnecessary frog violence.

“If one were to put Buñuel, Jodorowsky and Godard’s later works together in a blender, this is probably something one would get. Surrealistic, satirical and far far ahead of its time, Kamal Swaroop’s Om Dar-Ba-Dar is an endlessly wondrous masterpiece that feels less like a film and more like someone’s subconscious was projected onto film stock and then processed.

Made on a shoestring budget of $15,000 the film moves in a perpetually dreamlike trance with little care for adherence to traditional structure and includes deliberately nonsensical dialogue (“How do you know its going to rain?”/”Because you’re combing your hair.”) for shock value and to inspire retrospection. Time is thrown out of the window as events unfold often out of chronological order, enveloping the viewer within its strange-yet-familiar world.

Often called ‘The Great Indian LSD Trip’, the film lives up to this moniker by effectively using a nonlinear narrative and stunning oneiric images as means to satirize a whole number of themes relevant across urban India such as― stereotypical gender roles, pitfalls of scientific advancement, superstition, religion, greed, lust, corruption and a collective rebellion of the misunderstood youth against the previous generation (“The terrorist tadpoles had refused to turn into frogs!”), whose actions have led to the nation becoming a boiling pot of all the aforementioned ills. In particular it repeatedly depicts an obsession with science juxtaposed against superstition, with reoccurring mentions of the moon landings, frogs, the space race ― all culminating towards a spectacular final scene that shall accompany the viewer long after the credits have rolled.

It is a film that should stimulate, intrigue and captivate any cinephile, people who love this medium for its infinite possibilities and who’d like a break from continually turning to the Europeans for quality avant-garde cinema. It is unfortunate that this film never got a commercial release when it was first made, playing only at the 1988 Berlin International Film Festival, and getting a theatrical release only after a staggering 26 years. I believe that with proper support, Kamal Swaroop could well have become one of the finest surrealists of all time.”  – Shaswata Ray, Letterboxd


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