One of India’s best-known film critics, Chidananda Dasgupta, writes and directs an exotic, often amusing fairy tale in “Amodini.” This 18th-century tale of a beautiful, rich girl forced to marry her 15-year-old Brahmin houseboy, though wittily told and pictorially lensed, is shot like a cartoon for children. It can be enjoyed on its own terms at festival outings and probably some Indian film weeks. Pic was named best Bengali film of 1995 at the Delhi fest.
Best part is the pic’s animated pre-credit sequence, explaining how, in one Brahmin sect, the rules for finding a marriage partner were so exacting that young women ended up wedded to infants or old men on their deathbeds. Though mockingly illustrated, it is hard for foreign auds to tell how much, if any, relevance Dasgupta’s critique of the grotesque rules of old high society has today.
Amodini (Rachana Banerjee), the spoiled daughter of a local rajah, is preparing for her wedding, which is disastrously canceled at the last minute. She has to marry somebody before nightfall or submit to dire but unspecified consequences. The only male who fits the bill regarding caste, subcaste and sect is Pandu, a teenage servant inthe house. After the wedding, and before consummation, he is immediately banished.
Years pass and the rajah loses all his fabulous wealth. Pandu returns as a rich, handsome young man (Piyush Ganguly) and takes his revenge by usurping the rajah’s position in town. In the end, the proud Amodini begs to be taken back as Pandu’s wife, even though he has another bride in tow.
It’s all good fun for those who like period costumes and historical pageantry and aren’t bothered by the broad comedy of thesps who seem to be acting out a cartoon. Dasgupta is a better narrator than director, and some scenes lack excitement and pacing. Madhu Ambat’s cinematography is strong on striking visual compositions.