“Two Women” is a rousing, all-femme Indian melodrama that leaves not a dry eye in the house. Intense cast and direction should earn pic exposure at festivals (particularly women’s meets) and a look-see by webs with a special interest in Indian cinema at its most emotional.
Gauri and Krishna are sisters of hard-working peasants from a village in Maharashtra state. As they are joyfully on their way to Gauri’s wedding, news comes that the bridegroom has been killed in a train accident, along with the whole bridal party. Instead of sympathizing, the superstitious villagers blame her for bringing bad luck.
Hardest hit of all is Gauri’s mother, who decides the only way to get her daughter out from underfoot is to send her to Bombay with a relative. What everyone knows but won’t say is that Gauri is actually being sold into a brothel.
Thanks to her sister’s “job” in the city (which provides regular income for her family), Krishna can now get married to a bright young politician concerned about the peasants’ welfare. But when Gauri turns up for the wedding, the day of reckoning is at hand.
What keeps this melodrama-with-a-feminist-message watchable are the fine perfs of the three leads. As Gauri, Renuka Daftardar takes the noble, self-sacrificing role of the Indian woman to its logical extreme, sending money home to the mother who has ruined her. Sonali Kulkarni, as the rebellious Krishna, has a wonderful set piece in the middle of her wedding. And Uttara Baokar makes a chilling mother simply because her villainy is so real, her motives so down to earth.
Film’s main faults for Western auds are its excessive length and the culture shock of having the story interrupted by several songs.