Cast: Rahul Chauhan, Arun Shekar, Nand Kishor Pant, Poonam Alok Ingle, Vandana Asthana, Sanjai Kumar, Padmaja Roy, Nilam Kumari, Abhishek Madrecha, Lalit K Jogi
Director: Neelam R Singh
Rating: * * *
This film is topical, coming as it does, after the recent Supreme Court versus Government of India conflict on the latest notification of the SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act which sought to overturn the Supreme Court verdict of 20 March 2018 banning immediate arrest of a person accused of a crime against a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe member. The attempt here is to portray a social and judicial inequity with honesty and grit.
The narrative which incorporates a storyline from one of author Shivmurthi’s Hindi novels, begins with the molestation of a young Dalit girl, Rajpatiya (Padmaja Rai) by the local Brahmin landowner’s brat Chandar (Abhishek Madrecha), in Badgoan village. Chandar and his family use their powerful positions in the village hierarchy to intimidate and threaten the hapless family but Bhaiji (Sanjai Kumar) the resident ‘Jai Bheem’ activist gets involved and ensures that the victimised family exaggerate the offence to rape, bringing the offence under the Harijan act which allows for immediate incarceration and denial of bail to the accused.
The rest of the narrative exposes the systemic ruptures in the judicial process shadowing lawyers, police and politicians from both sides who use the loopholes thereof to gain ascendancy for their respective clients. Unfortunately, the victim and her family, end up as pawns in the hands of those wily middlemen with political affiliations, who purport to seek justice by perpetuating a lie.
The film is strong on story but the treatment is not always assured. The plotting goes a little haywire trying to bring in all points of view – thus losing out on making ‘exploitation of the hapless’ a consistent and strong enough thread to garner empathy for the protagonists. The background score is strong on regional flavour, the songs the camerawork frames the characters definitively while the editing helps the narrative along by keeping it spare and uncluttered.
Performances by Nand Kishor Pant as Rajpatiya’s father, Poonam Alok Ingle as her mother, Vandana Asthana as Panditain, (Chandar’s mother), Neelam as the victim Rajpatiya and Padmaja Roy as Lavangi, the maid stand out as tenacious endorsements of different points of view within the caste, class and gender hierarchy. The film is robust on character play but the lack of tension and intensity in the narrative makes it a rather feeble attempt at social awareness!