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Three decades and spinning

entertainment Updated: Aug 13, 2010 23:50 IST

Hindustan Times
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Rating: three

It’s not often that a flawed gem, published on DVD for the first time almost three decades after it was cut, makes immense sense with the timing of the reissue. Through the twisted years of land reforms, Shyam Benegal’s Arohan portrays the changing Bengal society that led to the installation of the Left Front government. Oh what an ironic loop of history it’s been since, made even more poignant by the fact that the film was produced by the state government.

As the world around them teeters between the right and the left, feudalism and votebank politics, villages and cities, Hari Mondal and his desperately poor family try to stay straight. His brother, sister-in-law and mum go to Kolkata to earn via means fair or foul. In the village, Hari and his wife keep up their end in a violent struggle for land and rights.

Benegal assembled a stellar cast. Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor, Shyamanand Jalan, Sreela Majumdar and Victor Banerjee turned in twinkling performances — all framed by the sure camera of Govind Nihalani. Shama Zaidi wrote the screenplay, Bansi Chandragupta led the art department, and Nashville-returned Baul Purna Das set the score.

But abuzz with unreconstructed history and fed by State largesse, Benegal treated the Left with kid gloves in his overlong re-election film. Just that today the hand of history is donning iron.