The Beleauguered Backwaters
by Geetashree Chatterjee
There are many films, which are being made on the quiet, without much fanfare or media hype and definitely not under those dynastic banners which dish out one block buster after another year in and out. I am talking about the 55th National Award winning Hindi movie –“Antardwand” (2010).
Antardwand not only signifies the inner dilemmas of the characters thrown into complex, almost bizarre, situations beyond their imagination and control but also alludes to the societal upheaval when an out-dated, feudal, autocratic order is confronted by enlightened,progressive opposition. The film is the evaluation of India at its transitional best. Set in the hinterlands of Bihar, Antardwand lays bare the dynamics of a regressive but rampant socio-cultural ethos of groom kidnapping, very much alien to the “Shining” India’s neon-zapped urban milieu. Raghubir (Raj Singh Chaudhury), an IAS aspirant, visits his home-town (Kanti) for a day to seek his parent’s permission to marry Siya, his Punjabi girl-friend. Needless to say the proposal is unceremoniously struck down by the irate father (Vinay Pathak) who has more lucrative plans for his would-be-bureaucrat son. A rebellious Raghubir leaves the house in a huff to be abducted by unknown assailants on the way, physically assaulted for days and forcefully married off, in a state of drunken stupor, to a teen-aged, college-goer, named Janaki (Swati Sen), whom he has never known before.
The hijack is scrupulously masterminded by none other than the bride’s father (Akhilendra Mishra), who has been eyeing Raghubir for a long time as the ideal match for his daughter. However, being rudely turned down by the boy’s father, scores are settled by kidnapping the boy, stage-managing an enforced wedding ceremony and keeping the newly-weds under close surveillance until the coast is said to be all clear. What
comes as more shocking is the familial pressure brought on the couple to consummate this unconventional union in order to ensure the ultimate subjugation of a still-adamant groom.
Finally, when the conspiracy fails, the bride’s father has nastier plans up his sleeves…Director, Sushil Rajpal makes an impactful cinematic statement through a taut and terse narrative without attempting at being didactic or accusatory – he simply tells an edge-of-the-seat story backed by power packed performances mouthing typical, rustic dialect which
unequivocally reinforces the backdrop – and the message is conveyed in no uncertain terms. Highly recommended for those who are inclined towards meaningful and realistic cinema, Antardwand pans on the beleaguered backwaters, a world existing parallel to an “Incredible India”, where the unhesitant patriarchs still wager their servile womenfolk in a bid to win battles of fickle pride and ego!! Inspired by a true story, the movie ends on an optimistic note dwelling upon the desperation of the gen-next to cross over the threshold of obsolete patriarchy and make a fresh, respectful start.
A movie worth watching!!