Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kadvi Hawa [dir. Nila Madhab Panda]

Kadvi Hawa (KH) is undoubtedly a sincere film, but it's unfortunately not a gripping one. KH reminds me of one of the likely reasons why the Indian parallel film movement of the 70's and early 80's petered out - Repeated tales of exploitation, poverty, social injustice told in a rote solemn manner, their only aim to stand on a soapbox and awaken the collective social conscience (and maybe win awards for the same). But at the cinema people rarely bond with issues, they bond with interesting characters and stories, and the trick is to slide in the bolus of your agenda within a narrative an audience is interested to immerse itself in. Here we see many of the tired cliches: old man (Sanjay Mishra) waiting for hours at an institution only to be rudely turned away, painstakingly detailed daily routine of poor farmer's family, long shots of arid vistas...Art Phillum Class 101.
The publicity campaign made KH look like it was going to provide some kind of dramatized exploration of how India was reeling under climate change, but the bulk of the film is far smaller in scope, dealing exclusively with the issue of drought-hit farmers in Mahua (Bihar?) suffering from piling debt. One does not argue that climate change played a big role in their problems but there is no holistic perspective. There are flashes of such possibilities, like when the loan collector (Ranvir Sheorey) talks about his place in Odisha being tormented by floods, but it's just delivered in rapid chunks of exposition. On the whole this film makes a disjointed case about climate change as an issue, veering between barely mumbling about it or making ham-handed statements, like when a kid in school says he knows only two seasons because the rain falls for only a few days each year. In my view the film needed a multi-layered exploration like what Nishikant Kamat achieved with Mumbai Meri Jaan or some of Shyam Benegal's films that dealt with social injustice.

Which is not to say the film is unworthy. Like I said earlier, it has a sincere intent. The central plot point of the old man looking to attenuate his son's loan by acting as an informer about other defaulters to the loan collector is within itself dramatically sound, and actors like Mishra and Sheorey bring a lot of credibility to their parts. As an episode in a television anthology series, it may have been brilliant, but as a 90 odd min feature film, KH does not lift the kind of intellectual or dramatic weight that compels your attention through the grim proceedings.

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