Review: ‘The Little Republic’

An old-fashioned workers' rights agitprop drama, Indian indie "The Little Republic" finds women of various castes in a small Rajasthan village uniting when the menfolk drag their feet about a desperately needed water well. Modest production will be of particular interest to women's and human rights fests.

An old-fashioned workers’rights agitprop drama, Indian indie “The Little Republic” (original title “Swaraaj” translates more closely to “Self-Government”) finds women of various castes in a small Rajasthan village uniting when the menfolk drag their feet about a desperately needed water well. Making up in earnestness whatever it lacks in sophistication, modest production will be of particular interest to women’s and human rights fests.

Local Brahmin consider themselves liberal for allowing women to join the town council, but those femmes are expected to shut up when real decisions are made — the results usually catering to corrupt business interests and class prejudice. When women discover water beneath what seemed a tapped-out well, they’re overjoyed — no more will they have to pay a delivery man, or walk great distances for this basic need. Yet the council thwarts them, forcing four women to boldly trek to the city on foot for official approval. Even this doesn’t end things, as offended Brahmin later try to sabotage the pipeline construction. Former film critic and documentarian Anwar Jamal’s first feature is heavy-handed at times, with some amateurish moments, but good lensing and music buoy activist message.

The Little Republic

India

Production

An Institute of Social Sciences presentation of an Anwar Jamal and Sehjo Singh Production. Produced by George Mathew. Executive producer, Sehjo Singh. Directed by Anwar Jamal. Screenplay, Sehjo Singh, from a story by Tripurari Sharma and Jamal.

Crew

Camera (color), S. Chokalingam; editor, A. Sreekar Prasad; music, Indian Ocean; art director, Kanhaiyalal Kaithwas. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (World Cinema: Reflections of Our Time), Aug. 28. 2002. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Alka Amin, Harvinder Chatterji, Mandakini Goswami, Rajendra Gupta.
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