There are many instances in which the two distinct fields of architecture and film collide, creating links that go beyond actual buildings and into symbolic spaces. Cinema, with its rich tapestry of music, pictures, and narrative, is an art form. In expressing identity through physical structure and enduring presence, architecture demonstrates the tangible. Filmmakers have made use of architecture’s power as a pivotal component in their stories, enhancing plotlines, creating atmosphere, and drawing audiences into engrossing visual worlds through constructed surroundings. For this article, I picked the movie “Masaan”.   

An Architectural review of Masaan-Sheet1
Movie Poster_© https://www.hotstar.com/in/home?ref=%2Fmovies%2Fmasaan%2F1000087441

The title, which translates to “crematorium,” and the setting allude to the film’s themes of chaos, loss, and reincarnation. Masaan is portrayed as a storehouse of antiquated ideals and a boiling pot of unfulfilled ambitions because it is set in Varanasi, the historic center of spirituality and salvation. There are two parallel journeys: one starts in hope, and the other in despair. 

The Plot

Along the Ganges, four lives converge: that of a low caste youth in hopeless love, that of a daughter burdened with guilt following a tragic sexual experience, that of a hapless father whose morals are eroding, and that of a lively child who longs to leave the moral confines of a small village. Unprecedented circumstances lead these lives to reflect on and explore their desires via one another.

Two tales meanders along the banks of the Ganges as the river of life touches them in various ways before coming together at the Sangam Allahabad. The first tells of a father and daughter who are haunted by the traditional architecture of a small town, while the second follows the thoughts of a young couple from different castes.

An Architectural review of Masaan-Sheet2
Movie scene_© https://www.screendaily.com/reviews/masaan-review/5088466.article

The Characterization

Every character aspires to get away from their oppressive surroundings and from life itself.
One theme that remains consistent throughout the movie is “death.” A soul is departing from its earthly body from the first scene to the last. The film features sequences with bodies on cremation grounds. For example, at one moment, Deepak’s father requests someone to turn the burning body’s legs inside. In the movie “Shaalu,” the protagonist perishes in an automobile accident. At least twenty lifeless bodies were burning when she was taken to the incinerator. Just before he burns Shaalu’s corpse, Deepak recognizes her. The film provides in-depth insights about life, viewpoints, and emotions of letting go.

The intellectual and poetic trip that Varun and Neeraj have been on throughout the film comes to a conclusion at the film’s climax. It appears that they were undecided at this time about whether or not to use the stories as a focal point in the story. You can’t really complain with the movie, save for the closing few minutes.

Through personal philosophical journeys, the 109-minute play refracts the harsh realities of Indian culture, including financial struggle, caste division, sexual restriction, and limited mobility. The benefit of an ensemble framework is that each character’s experience has a gratifying circularity, and each interaction is wisely turned over and sent on its road to its just conclusion. However, there isn’t enough time to thoroughly examine the fallout from Devi’s harsh run-in with the law or the doomed Deepak-Shaalu affair.

How Architecture influences the movie

The oldest city in India, Varanasi, serves as the ideal setting for the film’s premise because it is a place that embodies both life and death together. The film, which was filmed along the Ganga River, depicts the stunning ghats of the city as well as the ghats that are in flames, particularly Harishchandra Ghat, where funeral pyres are continuously burned.

The background conveyed a “religious” significance in addition to beautifying the frames. Once an emotional connection is made between the audience and the film, it is expected to be a hit. One of the main factors contributing to this, in addition to the plot, was “The Backdrop.” The movie also featured the “burning ghats – Harishchandra Ghats,” which struck a deep chord with the viewers. This is only one example of how architecture is important to film.

“A film cannot be made in a vacuum.” – Cinema and architecture are constantly in conversation. Beyond aesthetics, architecture plays a crucial role in storytelling and visual communication in movies. Cinematographers employ architectural settings to evoke emotions, carry narrative subtext, and transport viewers. Cinema’s use of architectural styles, landmarks, and symbolism demonstrates the built environment’s significant influence. 

Cinema will continue to be shaped and improved by architecture as long as filmmakers and architects work together. Cinema and architecture have a complex interaction that enhances our watching experiences, blurs borders, and has a long-lasting cultural influence. Cinematic architecture goes beyond abstraction to transport audiences into real-world settings rich with engaging narratives and life-changing events.

References:

  • Ramnath, N. (2023, July 30). Film review: ‘Masaan’ finds life and hope in the city of corpses. Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/reel/743244/film-review-masaan-finds-life-and-hope-in-the-city-of-corpses 

 

Author

Kimaya is an architect based in Mumbai. Her interests lie in contributing to social justice and making cities more habitable. Her research interests include public and urban policy, urban inequities, and mobility. She enjoys observing and writing about cities and their complexities.