Land, Gold, Women
Junglee /Richer Lens, R299
It’s horrific when a father or a brother kills a daughter or a sister; but isn’t it gobsmackingly stupid to call such an act ‘honour killing’? What can goad a blood relation to even consider such a heinous crime? This broody film written and directed by Avantika Hari attempts to fill a bit of the despairing void in popular culture that stares back at anyone who asks such questions.
Nazir Ali Khan, an Indian-born, Birmingham-based professor, is a loving husband to homemaker Rizwana and a doting father to 17-year-old Saira and her younger brother Asif. Nazir’s elder brother Riyaaz proposes that Saira be married to a boy from “a good family in Lucknow”. Without knowing anything about the boy, or about his daughter’s love for a local librarian who happens to be white, the worldly-unwise Nazir promises Saira’s hand.
About four-fifths into the 100-minute film, Saira elopes. And everyone’s life descends into a dark turmoil.
Can a man claim impunity behind the ancient tribal code — which is still enacted among various communities between Delhi and Istanbul — of killing to “protect” his ‘zan, zar, zameen’ (translated here as land, gold, women)? There’s no easy answer between the awkwardness of Narinder Samra as Nazir and the surety of Hassani Shapi as Riyaaz. The plot is so predictable that it dampens the tension.
The sharpest, sanest voice comes from Laila Vakil as dissenting defence lawyer Farah Siddiqui, who revolts against convenient interpretations of this barbaric patriarchal code.