Last Saturday, I was invited by Radha Gungaloo of SOS Femmes to the projection of ‘Mathrubhoomi – A nation without women’, a film by Manish Jha. I was also part of a discussion panel chaired by Daniella Police after the projection.
The film is a must-see that grips your attention from beginning to end. It tells the story of a village in India where systematic female infanticide leads to an utter scarcity of women. The village becomes plagued with bachelors who are all in despair of ever getting a wife so that they are even prepared to pay a hefty sum to secure one, be it an old hag. This is an ironical twist in the Indian tradition where girls’ parents have to pay the dowry to compensate the bridegroom’s family for taking over the ‘burden’.
The film focuses on a family of six men (a father and his five sons) who lay their hands on a beautiful lass named Kalki who was living in hiding. Kalki gets married off to the five who, together with the father, literally take turns to rape her and use her body to satisfy their long-restrained sexual impulses. She only finds solace in the youngest husband and is also befriended by the boy-servant. But her hopes of happiness will not last long…
It is a harsh film which shows the dark side of man, his cruelty towards the female sex, from the newborn to the full-grown. There are denunciations of the caste divisions, religious people and the ‘nouveaux riches’. There are also many allusions to the ‘perversions’ that are present in a supposedly puritan society (a porn video viewing, a priest having homosexual relations, a transvestite, another who f***s with the cow).
Technically speaking, it is very nicely made. No song-and-dance rituals, no crap dialogue, no romantic heroic figure. The very opposite of mainstream Bollywood…
Gilbert D. says
Looks very interesting indeed. Any idea where I could get a copy pls?
Makes me think somehow (though ‘Mathrubhoomi’s plot and social critique seem to be much harsher) of ‘Mirch masala’. And brings back to mind Ray’s “hommage” to women in Charulata, and how I’d have liked that Bhansali’s visually enchanting 2002 ‘Devdas’ be named ‘Paro’ – comparing the plight of the main characters and the acting performance.
Thanks again for hinting to this movie
Shaan Cheekhooree says
I never thought they would show this film publicly in Mauritius (independent alternative cinema is unknown in Mauritius, I think?)
I remember watching it with some Hindu girls, and their first reactions were “we bless whoever took out ancestors from India and brought them here.”
I remember when I first watched the film, I was a bit weary with all the tragedy in it, but I thought that the cinematic treatment of the subject matter was very well executed, even if there was nothing novel about it. The flow of the story was well structured, but felt anaemic at times…
It is certainly a film that provides a nearly raw depiction of the complex and chaotic society that populates India. It surely ponders the alarming issue that is Female infanticide. It also offers a portrait of the human mind, one that is nearer to nature and human instinct (This is a debatable viewpoint since many people will find the film’s subject matter disturbing and say its so inhumane and immoral, not something I disagree with).
I see it as a film that establishes the architecture of the ‘original’ human mind, which instinctively, is in search of reassurance, wants to dominate and is drawn towards its own destruction.
Following this film, some other alternative Indian films (no musical ‘interludes’) I would recommend are:
‘The Warrior’, directed by Asif Kapadia (2001)
‘Little Terrorist’, directed by Ashvin Kumar (2004)
‘Devaki’, directed by Bappaditya Bandopadhya (2005)
Gilbert, I could probably ask Radha to lend me her copy…
I didn’ t quite like Bhansali’s Devdas (haven’t seen the original one though). I thought it was way too long, way too melodramatic and that the decors were way too lavish. It was just a ‘too much’ film. Except of course for Aishwarya’s sublime beauty…
Shaan, it wasn’t really a public showing, just a small screening for SOS Femmes and its guests. Needless to say there were only women. Which is sometimes a good thing cos it gives women the opportunity to voice out their opinions freely, which some of them did. The event was organised to mark the launching of the ’16 days against violence against women’…
Shaan Cheekhooree says
Christina, do you think it will be possible to have online screenings of the independent Mauritian short films (like an online Mauritian cine club). The public and your students will be able to analyse, talk and rate the films. I am sure the MFDC and the Filmmakers will jump at such an opportunity and it will be really easy to clear the rights. Just a thought I had.
Shaan, that’s an excellent idea!
The local filmmakers would probably be delighted to have such a platform.
As for the MFDC, I don’t really know where they stand now.There’s been a bit of havoc there with the firing of Selven Naidu, rumours that the MBC are sort of taking over most of the equipment, etc.
lots of crap going on at MBC.. 😛
Shaan Cheekhooree says
Christina, the inside information I have about MFDC is that they are trying to promote the Mauritian film industry in a less artistic and more commercial way. They have recently asked Raindance, here in London (http://www.raindance.co.uk/) to help them find British tutors and technicians to design educational programs to teach Mauritians the craft of commercial filmmaking. I know Raindance very well and I know where their limits are, but I think it’s a good choice to start with. But if Christian Nayna is not too egoistic (which he tends to be) and does not want to exterminate Selven Naidu’s contribution to the MFDC, then he will surely be happy to help you. The MFDC does not have much equipment and they are all in a pretty bad state, so I don’t see why the MBC will be interested in them. Saying that, as vicks points out, people at the MBC have no clue what they are doing, so the rumours could be true.
Well, as far as I know, the MFDC bought some digital equipment some months ago. These are apparently being used by MBC people. In fact, they had a joint press conference as soon after Nayna was nominated to announce this very close collaboration. I have even heard that there is a journalist + a technician who are permanently attached there.
I don’t know Nayna at all but the way they proceeded did not quite seem nice. They fired most of the staff whom they subtly accused of having been hired under the old regime.
I did hear that the new direction (don’t even know whether they have nominated a director) wanted to engage into more commercial and popular activites.
If they’re investigating training, that’s good news. Just hope they select the right people to benefit from that and that something concrete comes out of this.
Shaan Cheekhooree says
Nayna is a favoured through his political relations. He is being paid back for his promotional services he supplied to the current regime during their election campaign.
It seems they are going to make a ‘cari melange’ of this MFDC with the MBC in there. Enfin, I never really had much hope in them.
In terms of selecting the right people for the training, this is a whole different story. And I remember when Deven Mauloo was heading MFDC, they had the same ideas which never lead anywhere. Lets see.
Let me know if you are interested to go ahead with the idea I suggested. I can pass you the contact of the ‘ex’ liason officer at MFDC. He might be able to help you get in touch with the filmmakers and arranging something.
seems interesting film.. since i did my presentation on Water wil be nice to compare Mehta’s film with this one.. wil try to get it after exams.. enfin just hope i get it 🙂
and good idea shaan..wil kinda promote maurtian short films…n can become an interactive n highly effective platform in future..
Yumn Zaynah says
i am interested in watching this film as i read about this projection on the newspaper… May be the film could be studied in the module of Media Content and Style or even Aspects of Film Theory…
Indian films that comes from the ‘sentier battu’ are better produced than those big commercial ones… by the way, DEVDAS is a total crap with no lesson to take out except the colours and the failing beauty of Aishwarya Rai.
Sometimes it is better to watch old B&W indian films with their songs and old character rather than the new ones who do not even have a story background…
can anybody tell me, where can i find the watch online version of the hindi movie Matrubhoomi-a nation without women by manish jha, i have read a lot about this movie, and heard it was critically acclaimed worldwide. please mail me at
Selven Naidu says
I fell on Christina’s blog by accident!!!
It’s about time you guys know the truth about the MFDC – at least when I got kicked out of the Corporation in October 2006 (2 years almost!).
In fact in 2005, MFDC did invest in new equipment (DVCam format) for production (4 fully equiped units), post-production (2 complete AVID units) and public screening (projector, sound gears and screens).
Just to remind you, from 2003 to 2005, the MFDC actually produced 20 mauritian shorts per year. I felt that the short competition that was there when I joined the MFDC had some positive aspects but I, nevertheless felt (a tort ou a raison) that instead of giving money as prizes it would have been more profitable to young mauritian aspiring filmakers to clear the competitive element and direct the funds towards training to the 20 selected candidates, which, of course, had the approval of the Corporation’s Board.
For your info, when I joined the MFDC in May 2003, the previous government had decided that the MFDC should be more industrial in its approach rather than cultural (remember the shift from the Ministry of Culture to Industry). In other words, F*** the mauritian aspiring filmmakers and support Bollywood! I actually believed that both could be handled by the MFDC and did convince the then Minister of Industry (Mr Cuttaree)and the Board members, which we actually did (an average of 80 Bollywood crews actually shot segments of their films in Mauritius per year from 2003 to 2005).
When the new Chairman stepped in May 2006, he cancelled the whole thing and proposed to produce shorts on promoting Mauritius as a tourism destination, which I felt was not MFDC’s mandate (a rather stupid proposal, in my opinion, to say the least!). Furthermore, he proposed to pay an indian Rs 100,000/month to promote Mauritius in India, when no such item was budgeted!!! Guess from which item the money would be pulled out of?: “Fonds de soutien a la production mauricienne”! This is how they actually f***ed aspiring mauritian filmmakers to benefit other people who didn’t (and still don’t!) know a thing about the sector.
Remember, “Cinema sous les etoiles” and the 8 mini festivals and retrospectives per year, where the MFDC went almost all round the island screening independent films to contribute to audience development (one cannot just produce inde films and not developping audience for same), it’s seems pretty obvious to me… but not to the people who had the power of decision.
In brief, all the incredients for a disaster scenario were already there before I got kicked out.
I have deliberately left out decisions taken which I felt were done out of bad faith or ignorance or both – like kicking out staffs of the MFDC who were contracted on the basis of their qualifications and passion for filmmaking and slanderous accusations towards myself, but that’s a very long story and could be interpreted as very subjective.
All I can say now is that I hope that the young filmmakers keep it up by foreign funds which do exist for southern filmmakers. If anyone needs any info I’ll be more than happy to do so, which I’m doing now in Madagascar where I’m directing a private TV and 3 Radio channels. A long way from creative work but one has to earn one’s living.
My e-mail address:
Really nice to hear from you and get your version of the story. Alas! All that you are saying do confirm my fears about the MFDC. They recently organised a short film competition for Independence Day celebrations and one of my friends Wassim Sookia won many prizes and I think he is indeed a promising talent.
But the way they managed the whole thing was completely crap and gave the impression Wassim was unduly favoured. They managed to have a two-hour long prize-giving ceremony without showing any of the films (not even extracts) to the audience and till today, none of the films have been shown to the public. As you rightly say, a film needs an audience to exist and thrive…
Fortunately, there are attempts at reviving the art/industry. Some film-makers are trying to set up an association to promote their interests and have contacted me. I hope this yields something good.
I know it will take a lot of time though to rebuild what you started and to get the right momentum for artistic creation to take place and meet the audiences.
I would be very interested in knowing whether the association of filmmakers you mentioned above has materialized? if you have any updates please let me know.
Actually, I have not heard anything from them since around August last. The last I heard was that it was difficult to rally people. I just hope this does not mean the end of the project. Sometimes, ideas which require a lot of commitment or energy take a lot of time to take off or need something radical to trigger participation. Let’s hope it’s gonna work.