'Director's Cut' - A Book Review

Director's Cut
MK Raghavendra
320 Pages | Rs. 399

To be honest, however great a cinephile that I claim to be, I have read very few books or essays on cinema in India before now. Admittedly, I would consider the online reviews of popular film critics, such as Anupama Chopra and Rajeev Masand, before planning a movie outing with friends and family. But lately, not always would their views cohere with mine.

It is at this juncture that I come across M.K. Raghavendra's Director's Cut - 50 Major Filmmakers of the Modern Era, published by the HarperCollins. The author is well known among Indian film critics, and is known primarily for his scholarship and expertise. In this book, he handpicks fifty of the most revered film directors of the post-1960s world cinema and attempts to study their craft from different point of views. Political implications, social realism and even the director's mental attitude towards his work, among many.

The author states the didactic purpose of redefining what we casually refer to as 'classics' first and how we could allow newer voices of international films into that list. He delineates his purpose of choosing the 'modern' epoch - one, following the French New Wave - and presents his argument for missing out on certain film directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Roman Polanski while choosing others who not only commenced work in that period but also produced major work for many years ever since.

Books I need to finish this year!

The author has venerated the greats from the 1960s but to be fair, he also included directors from the post-modern and beyond, abusing the canon he himself set in the beginning of the book. I find it difficult to have Wong Kar-Wai and Lars von Trier and Quentin Tarantino on the list while veterans like Coen Brothers and Ang Lee were given a miss. There is also a curious dearth of many Indian directors, except for the regularly acknowledged Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Gopalakrishnan, Govindan Aravindan and Raj Kapoor.

The book is, besides all that, a good study of modern film directors and world cinema. It is still an excellent dissertation considering the impressive scrutiny and detail that the author managed to put up. A good guide for a dilettante film aficionado, this book may just inspire one to discover cinema beyond the mainstream universe of Karan Johar, Bejoy Nambiar and Anurag Kashyap.

I personally enjoyed reading the essays on Woody Allen, Ritwik Ghatak (and the comparison of his world view with that of Satyajit Ray), Martin Scorcese, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick. However, I disagree with the author on more than one occasion. The most important of them being his line of reasoning for Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds (2009). He claims that it would only be absurd on the director's part to let two cinephiles contrive against Hitler, by destroying vintage reels. But I ask, why not. What more suitable material to use? This seems only fitting!

The author completes his study by putting up a helpful reference of filmography for the directors he mentions. Apt however, is the last of the three quotes he mentioned in the beginning of the book - 'Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.' - Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in Dead Pool (1988).


  1. I cannot stop staring at the picture. SO many books. Gee! I cannot wait to read The Lowland and The Black Book.

  2. The Black Book is beautiful. I'm almost at the end. Pamuk promises and delivers each time! As for Lowland, I'm about to start it. It is going to be 'that book we read on journeys' for me!

  3. Dude I will seriously sue for undue, unauthorized mentioning of 'Nikunj', especially for portraying me as the jack around !! You know what I was perhaps the most excited in the bunch for this trip, during this trip and after this trip. Excellent Summary Brother!!

  4. Just to mention!
    Remember how we were imagining Pykara to be perfect shooting spot for a Dino movie ( Lost World kinda !)
    Dude how can you not mention the photoshoot before we left,,and the group snap at the downhill.
    And I know it is a censored version, but dude the rave party next door !! OMG !! I can visualize it as it happened yesterday !
    Again brilliant description brother ! Those who never been in such a trip will regret after reading this :)

  5. You were the soul of the frisbee match brother! Couldn't do justice to the trip summary without mentioning you..

  6. Yes, the pine forests looked so bygone that we almost could picture the T-Rex doing a 'Phata Poster Nikla Hero!' :P The photoshoot I didn't mention because I didn't enjoy it - I was late, it was drizzling and the fact that it was ending was just too gloomy.. I didn't describe the rave party at all, as only you know what we did and what we didn't! :D AND WE'D RATHER NOT MENTION EM HERE!