Directed by: Prakash Jha
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Shabana Azmi, Ayub Khan, Mohan Joshi, Om Puri, Shilpa Shirodkar
No country makes better movies about women’s suffrage and discrimination than India. Water/Fire/Earth, Lajja, Amar Prem (sorta), etc. And why not? It’s dramatic, and if Bollywood movies are anything…they’re dramatic (some might say melodramatic, and in many cases that’s true too.) Prompted by the fact that Madhuri is such an amazing dancer (really…if you haven’t seen any Madhuri movies, you’re missing out.) Now, while in some rights this film is nowhere near as intense as Water (for certain…reasons…) it has some wonderful elements to it, which makes the movie an all-round good film.
It begins with two women fleeing a violent and brutal crowd of men-folk. One of the women is pregnant, but the crowd is immune to her plight…they even stoop so far as to drag the poor girl through the mud. Finally…she is murdered, along with the other woman. The magistrate comes to investigate matters.
One of the village men is angry, and tells his wife, Kanti (Shilpa Shirodkar), that he’s going to go confess about what those other men did.
But he isn’t rich, and is also in debt. That’s when Tirpat Singh (Mohan Joshi) shows up, and instead of going to spill the beans to the magistrate…the guy finds himself helpless, as his wife begs for Tirpat Singh to let her work to pay off her husband’s debts. She promises to do ‘ANYTHING’ for the guy, and he agrees because of that one magic word.
The village men claim that the women were sluts with little to no sanity, and actually brought their deaths upon themselves. The mob was only defending itself from two vicious, crazy women. Of course, this whole fiasco was really all engineered by none other than Tirpat Singh. Rambaran Manto (Om Puri) attests that the village doesn’t want this inquiry, it disrupts the peace (as if that didn’t already happen.) Everyone leaves and pretends to forget about the matter.
And then we meet Ketki (Madhuri Dixit), a bubbly young woman who has just become a bride. Her husband’s name is Vinay (Ayub Khan)…for future reference. After the wedding, we get to meet Ketki’s sister-in-law/Vinay’s sister-in-law, Chandravati (Shabana Azmi). We find out early on that Chandravati’s husband is a jerk. This is illustrated by his inability to socialize with…well, anyone. He’s also an alcoholic who’s way too free with his money (real surprise there.) And it doesn’t make sense, considering the fact that he’s married to someone like Chandravati (she is played by the lovely Shabana, after all.)
But enough of that drama. Time for a song!
The upper-caste men in this village play a dangerous game of bribery and deceit, and Chandravati’s husband pays for the murder of a certain Abbot…and gains the man’s position, in turn. In doing so, he must abandon his wife. Thus, Chandravati is forced into a false widowhood. The other women in the household claim it is fate, though one says that had she born him a son…this would not have happened. Therefore it’s Chandravati’s fault, of course.
Tirpat Singh sees this as a chance to get at the ‘widow’s’ family, and gain quarry rights to their land. But Vinay’s father isn’t having it. Back to Ketki and Vinay, it looks like their marriage is turning out to be all sunshine and lollypops. But despite the fact that they’re happy together, the family faces financial strain. Due partially to their caste, and situation. But Ketki cares about her husband, and is willing to sell her jewelry for him, as a business investment. She expects to get it back in no time.
But for the sake of ambition and greed, Vinay, in essence, makes the proverbial deal with the devil by allying himself with Tirpat Singh. He is immediately (though he doesn’t realize it) betrayed by that same man, and loses his investments, along with the value of his wife’s bangles. This is of course, only part of Tirpat’s plan to bring Vinay closer to him…as a result, against his father’s wishes…and without his knowledge…Vinay signs a contract with Tirpat to quarry his land. Personally, I was surprised that he didn’t sign the damn contract in blood.
Vinay proceeds to become a good-for-nothing angry drunk bordering on abusive. And with that, the joy of marriage is shattered for poor Ketki. Vinay is a fool, unwilling to accept the knowledge or advice of his family…thus he is royally cheated by Tirpat, and doesn’t even see most of the money he should be receiving from his business. As for Chandravati, her health has begun to fail her. She is hospitalized, and seen to by Rambaran, who willingly pays the doctor’s bills for her. In the process, they grow close…and they have an affair.
Vinay does love his wife, but he’s an idiot. But she forgives him, because she loves him too. He’s grown wise to Tirpat’s tricks, and cancels his contract. Tirpat’s ticked off, of course…being the bad guy, and he promises in a congenial manner that he will get all of his money back…with interest…he’s sure of it. Thus the gong of dramatic foreshadowing has been rung.
Did I like the movie? Yeah. It was pretty good. Am I going to tell you the ending? Not on your life. My final rating for Mrityudand is 7 out of 10 bindis. However, an early warning…there may be some good songs in this, but it is not chock-full of Madhuri dance numbers. It also drags a little at times, but still well worth watching at least once. And let’s not forget Shabana Azmi (I love Shabana) who did an absolutely wonderful job in her role as well, on a final note.
Entry filed under: 5 and more Bindis, Film Reviews, Hindi, Languages. Tags: ayub khan, azmi, bollywood, dixit, drama, hindi, madhuri, madhuri dixit, mohan joshi, om puri, Prakash Jha, puri, romance, shabana, shabana azmi, shilpa shirodkar.