A Nation Without Women"
By Soma Wadhwa
04 March, 2004
women, men are not human. This metamorphosis of the male into animal
if the world were to become womanless is the theme of "Matrubhoomi:
A Nation Without Women". Perhaps the first full-length feature
film on female infanticide, Matrubhoomi is noteworthy, not just because
it is imaginative, but because it is less imagined, and more real, than
it seems. Over 35 million girls have gone missing in our country in
the last decade; killed while still foetuses, executed soon after they
were born, murdered because of sheer neglect.
Manish Jha (whose A Very Very Silent Film, won the best short film award
at Cannes in 2002), extrapolates from our current reality to imagine
an Indian village where, due to routine killing of female newborns,
women have entirely been wiped out.
fury, fanaticism that follow in this gender-skewed village have moved
several international juries; Matrubhoomi has received awards at Venice,
Kozlin, Thessaloniki and Florence. It hits Indian screens on March 26.
In Jha's village without women, crass, crude, confused and sex-starved
men hanker for release, through pornography, bestiality, homosexuality
and violence. The five sons of Ramcharan (Sudhir Pandey) crave sexual
satiation. When a girl, Kalki (Tulip Joshi), is spied, she is hungrily
bought by Ramcharan to be bride to the five. All of whom, plus Ramcharan,
then, begin exercising their physical rights over her, turn by turn
raped every night, and forsaken by her father for money, Kalki flees
home with her last hope, the low-caste servant boy Raghu, but her husbands
catch up and kill Raghu. This triggers off a caste war and Kalki finds
herself at the receiving end of rage from both sides. Chained to a pole
in the cowshed, she wastes away, as her husbands and Raghu's community
rape her repeatedly to get at each other.
Pregnant now, Kalki
becomes the centre of yet more strife, with everyone claiming paternity
of her child. Amidst another round of caste riots that destroys the
entire village, Kalki gives birth to a girl...
relentless brutality to shock, but at a certain point, the shock turns
to numbness, as Jha hammers away with endlessly repeated close-ups of
Kalki's battered face with yet another man untying his pyjamas in the
background. But the film makers are unapologetic. Says co-producer Punkej
Kharabanda (the film is an Indo-French co-production): "Ever since
Tulip's mother and sister saw the film, they have stopped speaking to
me. In a way, they feel that we made Tulip go through what Kalki goes
through in the film, and they can't forgive me for that."
If repulsion is
what Jha is aiming to evoke, the film works. It works perhaps even better
if, while watching it, one doesn't feel awkward about having forgotten
that this male malevolence is the offspring of a womanless world, "the
instability which can creep into society due to the absence of women-be
it physical, emotional and psychological".
the violations that Kalki suffers in this womanless universe is, after
all, the fate of many women even today, patriarchal property to be bought
and sold, raped, tortured in marriage, abused, battered, mauled during
riots, used as reproductive tools. Matrubhoomi blurs the present and