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Indian director V. Shantaram channelled the influence of German Expressionist cinema for this tale of palace intrigue, perilous traps and last-minute rescues.
A trip to Germany to process and print India's first colour film Sairandhri in 1933 marked a turning point for brilliant Indian film director V. Shantaram. While his earlier films were mainly lumbering mythologicals and historicals, Amrit Manthan, made immediately after his return from Germany, clearly reflects the powerful impression that German Expressionism had made upon him, while also reflecting his own perennial themes of social reform. When a progressive Hindu king bans animal sacrifice, he is opposed by a wicked priest, leading to a series of deadly intrigues and last-minute rescues. A heartfelt plea for a more humane religion, Amrit Manthan — its title referring to the "churning of the oceans" by gods and demons in search of the elixir of immortality — is also an action-packed spectacle featuring elaborate sets and costumes and impressive special effects, with Shantaram employing a host of techniques and devices learned from the German cinema: deep shadows, canted compositions, and, in one startling moment, a telephoto shot that offers an intense close-up of the evil priest's glaring eye.