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Bollywood Reviews
Review of the week - Bawandar
Punch Line: Caught in the whirl
Click here for more reviews - By Radhika

Cast: Nandita Das, Deepti Naval, Raghuvir Yadav, Rahul Khanna, Laila Rouass
Director: Jagmohan Mundra
Music: Vishwa Mohan Bhatt

Based on the true story of Bhanwari Devi's rape in Rajasthan, the film revolves around the larger issues of casteism, exploitation and male chauvinism. The feudal set up and the subjugative role of women in a State where child marriages still happens is highlighted. To chronicle the life of the saathin (a women's welfare worker of the State), a certain amount of drama is added.

Amy (Laila Rouass) arrives in Rajasthan with her friend-cum-interpreter Ravi (Rahul Khannal) to write about Savri Devi after having read about her case abroad. They rake up the case five years after the incident. Saviti Devi (Nandita Das) belongs to potter's family of Dabri village. She is married to Sohan (Raghuveer Yadav), a rickshaw-puller in Jaipur, has two children and is a gutsy housewife.

On the behest of Shobha (Deepi Naval), Savri joins the saathan programme to work for the welfare of women. The upper caste men of the village the priest and the Gurjars do not like this 'reformist' attitude and in order to reach her a lesson gang rape her in front of her husband who is also beaten up.

A courageous Savri goes to the police station to file a FIR. The police officer (Ravi Jhanakal), a corrupt man, wants her to produce a medical certificate. Almost after two days with Shobha's help Savri manages a court order with the help of which she gets the medical certificate in Jaipur. About two days pass in this process. When the case is filed, the upper caste men panic and get the help of the MLA Dhanraj Meena (Govind Namdeo). The case is transferred to the CBI.

In the meantime, a women's NGO, in Delhi on hearing the incident, tries to help Savri. A Gurjar lawyer defends Savri but the influence and reach of the upper caste men is high. Amy and Ravi speak to the people involved in the case.

The film projects the case of a rape victim who stands up for justice. In this she has the unstinting support of her husband (as he is a witness.). The bureaucratic hassles the victim is subject to brings out the nature o system where the victim has no immediate recourse to law.

The police machinery is depicted in sorry light. Besides corruption, which is entrenched, the police is involved in the falsification of evidence. Moreover, the police officer is shown to be sexually perverted and frustrated (imagine him gyrating in the victim's lehnga?). The film also portrays the superficial attitude of the NGO as well as other political parties which want to secure mileage out of this.

The victim's case is glorified and she receives and award from the Prime Minister. But her case meets a negative end. The court language used in the investigations is shocking.

The film is marked by excellent performances by the cast. Nandita Das and Raghuveer Yadav are outstanding. Shot in Rajasthan, the film captures the ethnic landscape and the sociopolitical set up well. The local dialect used is a bit difficult to follow.

The film exposes the maladies of the system where money and influence still rule the roost. Some questions can be raised from it. Is rape the tool and solution for subjugation of women who want to make a difference in society? Can they be silenced forever by this? Why is the male ego hurt? Do men still want women to live in the same feudal set up?

Why has director isolated this case for filming? Worthwhile to probe. Justice delayed is justice denied goes the dictum. Is Bhanwari Devi's case going to go the same way? Wait and watch.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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