Masters of Depressing Indian Cinema

We saw Aparna Sen's Yugant (1995) yesterday at the "Masters of Indian Cinema" Film Festival at the ImaginAsian. It's a serious, well-made film about a dysfunctional marriage, environmental destruction, and perhaps also the midlife challenges experienced by people involved in the arts ("where do I go from here?"). It clearly shows Aparna Sen's skills. Two years ago, her Mr. and Mrs. Iyer was a big art-house hit -- an art movie about communalism that succeeded in being pretty entertaining.

Since it's unlikely that readers will have access to this film anywhere, I won't review Yugant in any depth. Rather, I'll just pose a question:

Is it necessarily the case that "depressing" films leave you depressed? Oddly, though this film shows people who are deeply unhappy -- and not even in an ironic way, a la Todd Solondz, Woody Allen, etc. -- I walked away in a pretty good mood. Sen engages her audience in various philosophical and formal problems as she moves the story forward (and yes, down). The result is that, even with a pretty unhappy ending, the film doesn't leave you feeling down. I think part of it is that Sen uses mood-setting music quite sparingly (though she's not as spartan as the Dogme 95 people are. But a big part of the absence of depression-affect is the philosophical interest the film provokes.

In short, one must in all honesty describe Yugant as "a depressing film," but it is a depressing film that doesn't leave the viewer depressed...

One other quick comment: I was a little shocked by the condition of the print shown at the ImaginAsian. It's not their fault: this is the original film, shipped from India for this festival. I have a feeling that few good prints of films like Yugant exist, anywhere...

The film had clearly been scratched badly from use and misuse, and was a litte unstable. Also, yesterday was the first time I ever saw the melting of film in the projector, projected on screen. It was distressing; it means that the next people to watch Yugant are going to be missing a scene.