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In a sea of white

They weren’t born untouchable under the subcontinent’s caste system. They were made untouchable by Indian society — particularly by the so-called ‘enlightened’ Bengalis — when their husbands died. They are the white-clad widows who live their last years in Vrindavan, Varanasi or Puri, mostly uncared for by their kin.

movie reviews Updated: Dec 17, 2011 00:48 IST

Moksha
Director: Pankaj Butalia
Enlighten/Under Construction, Rs 499
Rating: *****

They weren’t born untouchable under the subcontinent’s caste system. They were made untouchable by Indian society — particularly by the so-called ‘enlightened’ Bengalis — when their husbands died. They are the white-clad widows who live their last years in Vrindavan, Varanasi or Puri, mostly uncared for by their kin.

It’s these ‘shunned’ omen, relegated to a blind spot of Indian society, on whom Moksha turns an unrelenting, non-judgmental camera.

The documentary, mostly featuring Bengali language but convincingly subtitled in English, is shot almost entirely in Vrindavan. Apart from looking at the herded lives of the women, it looks at some of them from up close. Many, it seems, ‘chose to’ come away to Vrindavan and play maids to the presiding deity, Krishna, in order to escape the harsh reality of a cold home. One of them, Shasti Dednath, says she “lost everything” when her son married. However, interviews with the son and daughter reveal a more complex history of the family, one in which the mother’s adamant possessiveness played a role.

Whatever they left behind, these women live the life of beggars, surviving on a fistful of rice and lentils, and a few rupees per day as dole from the religious trusts. But the stoic heroism of some of them ask a thousand questions of the smallest unit of society, families and other close relationships, that we take for granted. It's a mirror most of us usually do not
look into.


Dump those clichés

Bridesmaids
Director: Paul Feig
Reliance/Universal. Rs 599
Rating: *****

It’s possibly a first-of-its-kind hormone therapy in filmdom. When was the last time you saw a comedy, much of it slapstick, in which women cornered all the powerful roles and the men were treated as dumb clichés? Never in Hollywood, right? Well, move over Sex and the City. Bridesmaids is a rip-roaring film women are likely to rave about, and men are likely to be metrosexually polite about.

Things start going spectacularly wrong when penny-pincher Lillian (Maya Rudolph with the bearing of a true buddy) announces her childhood friend Annie (Kirsten Wiig with a low-self-esteem) to be the maid of honour.

Actually, trouble starts when high-maintenance blonde Helen tries to upend Annie’s position as Lillian’s best friend. The planning for the hen bash and the wedding gets stretched like pizza-cheese by the other maids: the super-aggressive and super-warm Megan (an unputdownable Melissa McCarthy), the Disney-loving Becca, and the sexually frustrated mother-of-three Rita. The only man who gets an empathetic treatment is Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd, a loveable nerd from The IT Crowd), who falls for Annie.

Proto-male Jon Hamm (of Mad Men notoriety) is reduced to the role of a pitiable bed-hopper and his name doesn’t even figure in the credits. Given that the film’s producer Judd Apatow was also responsible for Pineapple Express and Funny People, there should be much more in store from where this came. One just hopes it keeps coming out this way.