Matrubhoomi is not merely a fine movie.
It’s also a fine essence of India with its chilling depiction of various discriminations – against women, against lower castes, against a girl child et al.
It’s the injustices arising from these entrenched and oppressive discriminations that constitutes the true face of India not the few software firms or call centers employing a few thousand coolies or the purloined Bollywood films that thieving directors unleash at ever frequent intervals on a naive or indifferent public.
While Matrubhoomi is set in the lawless Hindi belt of North India where the name of your caste and the boom of your gun mean more than the rule of law, the discriminations are no less in the hinterlands of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka in the south.
After all, inhuman discrimination and gross injustice are the cornerstones of all of India not just of a few corners.
While Matrubhoomi touches upon various discriminatory practices, its just claim to fame owes to the accurate portrayal – and outcome – of a society where the girl child is more often than not treated as a curse.
Not surprisingly, female infanticide/foeticide is rife in the land. The movie mentions at the end that 35 million girls are missing in India over the last 100 years because of gender discrimination. It’d have been nice if the director had spent a few minutes and spelled out the reasons for such outrageous practices by weaving the explanation into the story itself.
Written and directed by Manish Jha with a cast of characters that includes Tulip Joshi, Sudhir Pandey, Sushant Singh and Piyush Mishra, Matrubhoomi is one of the better movies movies to emerge out of India in the last 10 years.
While Matrubhoomi is not the best movie we’ver seen, it certainly is one of the best movies to come out of India.
Set in a rural milieu where decades of female infanticide and foeticide has ravaged the population of girls and led to very few girls being available for marriage to boys in the area, the movie is the tragic account of a beautiful young girl Kalki (Tulip Joshi), whose father callously marries her away to five brothers in exchange for a hefty bride price and a couple of cows.
Kalki’s travails start soon after the marriage – she’s raped night after night by the male members of the family, the pater familias included.
When the young girl attempts to flee her forced destiny, it turns out to be a terrible disaster bringing further harrowing misery as she’s caught in the crossfire of caste wars.
The acting of all the characters is solid, the story compelling if cruel, the screenplay meticulous and the movie, which is set in the rustic ambiance of Ranhai Kala village of Harda district of Madhya Pradesh, seems so realistic.
The most vivid imagery in Matrubhoomi has little to do with the violence at the end of the film but more with the sight of the young girl Kalki tied to a post in the cattle shed near other cows as punishment after her attempted escape.
To some of us, the finest Indian movies are the creative gems like Matrubhoomi that hold a mirror up to society, not the totally-divorced-from-reality and stolen-from-Hollywood Bollywood trash filmed in Miami, Peru, Namibia or Sydney.
(If you live in the U.S., Matrubhoomi is available on DVD at Netflix.)