Following was my screening of a movie and contextualization of it in the class of Prof. Nirupama Prakash. Dr McAdams too came by to attend the class.
Tracing the utility values of films in understanding society and predicting social characters to inspire movies have been the preoccupation of post-colonial discourses. In addition, there is a need of subjective positioning of the audience since societal study involves the historical frameworks of human sufferings as well as living patterns emanating from this specific background.
Any attempt to understand women in a uniquely complex Indian society requires for subtler examination of core issues that the present film Mrityudand (Death Penalty) raises. Any apparent problem we are about to witness in the movie directs to multiple layers of societal adjustments. At the base, they will appear rudimentary and reflexive. But as we have studied in the earlier classes already, there are historical factors behind the reinforcement of certain values in any economically backward region.
Mrityudand chiefly raises the following questions:
Religious fanaticism: Is communalism a prevailing threat to the world order now or is it a historically existing order that is increasingly being challenged by empowered women?
Caste conflicts: Lower caste people are the ‘other’ in any society. They are pronounced as racially inferior. Who dictates the terms and defines the caste levels?
Caste politics: Why does the lower caste ‘play the card’? What is the histiography of caste politics? Is caste politics (especially when almost half of India is ruled via caste politics) a necessary evil?
Gender: Why doesn’t the ‘other’ gender unite, despite needs? Is it a family concern or a societal issue? Is there a need to distinguish family from society?
Culture: Is culture all pervading or differentiable? Is there anything such as a low culture and high culture?
Class issue: Are every other type of distinctions going to dissolve with distinct socio-economic class formations? Does radical uprising of the oppressed provide any solution? Or is it the only solution?
Duration of Hindi film Mrityudand is 2 hours 34 minutes. Released in 1997, it is directed by Prakash Jha.
Jha, an alternative cinema maker, has to his credit other ‘social’ theme based films like Hip Hip Hurray (1984), Damul (1985), Bandish (1996), (1996), Rahul (2001) and Gangaajal (2003).
Other films that might interest you:
Damini (1993), Tejasvini (1994), Astitva (2000) and Lajja (2001)