Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The state of Bihar in northeast India is a place almost universally ignored by both the government of India & Bollywood alike. It is among the least developed states of India and has a per capita income of $155 a year against India's average of $255 & 30% of Biharis live below the poverty line against India's average of 22%. There are many factors for this problem but many believe that caste-dominated politics and rampant corruption by politicians & bureaucrats have been the main cause of the lack of development of the state. Bollywood has it's favorite locales to do films in - namely Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan much like how Hollywood sticks to either LA or New York - both tend to ignore the less glitzy parts of their respective countries and in my opinion, are ignoring a rich cultural well from which to draw ideas from.
Prakash Jha's, 'Mrityudand' (Death Sentence), is a top notch art film told from a feminist viewpoint by someone with an insider's intimate knowledge and the despairing rage of a commentator who can tell the history of his native Bihar with surprising objectivity. Combining the star power of Madhuri Dixit and the thespian brilliance of Shabana Azmi, Jha gives us a movie that combines the arthouse & mainstream cinema perfectly. The movie explores the emotional & physical violence that Bihari society inflicts upon it's women and three very different ways in which the women in the movie fight back & ultimately bond to help eachother overcome this tyranny. I especially enjoyed the wonderful relationship portrayed by Shabana Azmi & Om Puri whose masterful performances in their roles showed why they are considered legends in Indian Cinema. For a more detailed look at the movie please check out Carla's review at Filmigeek.
The song for this week is the sweet love duet Kehdon Ek Baar Sajna by Udit Narayan & Alka Yagnik that is almost out of place in such a serious film but is actually well placed in the story - see it & why we fell in love with Madhuri Dixit below. The lyrics are by Shabana's real life husband Javed Akhtar and it seems that he had his bride in mind when he wrote them as they are sweet without being syrupy with a melodious backing score provided by Anand Milind. Incidentally this movie won a host of awards, the biggest being the Special Jury Award for a Feature Film aka the 'Cinéma Tout Ecran' from the Geneva Film Festival in 1998.