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Published August 4th, 2005 | by Raam Tarat

Matrubhoomi Review

Classification: 15 Director: Manish Jha Rating: 4/5

Debutante film-maker Manish Jha is one of those people for whom integrity is utmost.. and if they have a story to tell, no matter how much it may rile the masses – they will forge ahead regardless of the consequences. It takes tremendous nerve to produce a movie on female infanticide, especially in as astute and brutal an incarnation such as this.

To observe a glimpse of the anti-thesis of a utopian state, and extremes of a society on the brink.. take a look at this movie. Matrubhoomi – A Nation Without Women is set some time in the not too distant future when women are scarce and girls more so. The neanderthal practice of infanticide on newborn females since decades earlier has brought forth a social, demographic and evolutionary time-bomb of sorts. Villages in rural India have men aplenty, but the fairer sex is rarer than a beef curry in Southall.

Matrubhoomi tells the story of Kalki, a lone female in a land full of rancid testosterone. Men have been driven to the depths of moral depravity simply due to being denied a natural, normal life, and one which includes the female of the species.

A widower Ramcharan (Pandey) is desperate to find wives for his sons, all five of them… Though the prospect of finding one woman itself appears a pipedream, confidant and local priest (Mishra) manages to find a girl, Kalki (Joshi) and subsequently arranges her marriage to not one, but all five of Ramcharan’s sons. The sex (and to an extent conscience) starved siblings then exercise their conjugal rights in turn, afterwhich things start to go kind of awry…

Of the five siblings only the youngest brother Suraj (Singh) truly cares for Kalki. Despite the astonishing circumstances they begin to share quiet moments together forming a beautiful bond of their own, much to the chagrin of the father and other brothers. Suraj symbolizes her emancipation, her only light in the darkness engulfing her. Through him Kalki rediscovers her smile, and slowly but surely they fall in love. Jealous at their growing intimacy, the siblings go to drastic lengths to curtail the relationship – from which the film takes some shocking, at times incredulous turns.

Thus follows an utterly unfortunate series of events, which hurtle towards an utterly disheartening conclusion. This includes unwittingly triggering off a caste war, and when she ultimately becomes pregnant, everyone claims paternity, and I mean everybody.

Multiplex culture has only just found its footing in India, and the movie is an unusual, far-fetched and seriously exaggerated concept. Irreversible was deemed rancid in many ways, yet on another level entirely.. Matrubhoomi has its share of stomach-churning scenes, but the shock factor is more cerebral – as if to say WTF!?? Evidently the thought behind it isn’t to shock, but to get us thinking on issues such as infanticide, and the role (read: importance) of women in society.

The impact the absence of women has on men; physically, emotionally, psychologically, and in the wider social context – forms the basis of the film. Inexorably underlining the fact that men ultimately cannot function without women, not simply for the progression of mankind, or to simply gratify their sexual desires.. it goes much deeper than that – impacting in ways never imagined; de-constructing societal fabric and exploring human-kind as we know it.

As carnal desires give way to neanderthal instincts, the impact of the absence of women on men sees them finding alternative sources of release – pornography, homosexuality, even gratification through bestial violence.. This is an extremely strong film, and viewer caution is advised. It’s as far from family-viewing as you can get, and probably the ultimate anti-date movie too.

But do we seriously have to go to such lengths to appreciate Womankind? In my view this is not just a worst case scenario, more an extreme nightmare with a billion to one chance of happening. Jha has taken a very random premise, and ran with it. Kudos to him for exploring this, even if ultimately to re-emphasize the female of the species as the most beautiful and valuable entity known to man.

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