Based on a famous 1953 Marathinovel by Vyankatesh Madgulkar, who also scripted, “The Village Had No Walls” is an expertly directed story of a green young teacher living and working in a shepherd’s village in the Maharashtra desert in the ’40s. Basically familiar plot is handled here with style and wit, and pic could make a good TV pickup in addition to pepping up Indian film programs.
When a young stranger in city clothes (Chandrakant Kulkarni) first appears at the village gate, he’s told the locals don’t cotton to teachers. Befriended by an old man (Chandrakant Madrey) and his veiled granddaughter (Adhishi Athray), he settles in at the schoolhouse, but it takes time to round up pupils, who are used by their parents to watch the flocks. His lofty ideals take a further drubbing when he wins the villagers’ confidence: They turn him into an errand boy, which leads to some embarrassing situations.
Some hair-raising local customs are depicted — like punishing adulterers with banishment and illicit lovers with death. Only obscure point for Western auds will be the role that caste plays in affairs.
Film is full of touching and humorous moments that cast light on the customs and thinking of the time. Director Amol Palekar has a sensitive feel for landscape and faces, working them into striking pictorial compositions with the help of Debu Deodhar’s high-quality widescreen lensing. Cast is serviceable and pacing is good, but the sheer number of incidents crammed into the film take it out past the two-hour mark.