Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Sept. 25, 1999. Running time: 150 MIN.
With: Jaimala Ramachandra, Suresh Heblikar, Shivaram, Harish Raju.
Mammoth domestic drama sticks to one woman for whom Indian independence only provides a series of blows that serve to keep her under house arrest. Producer Jaimala Ramachandra’s perf as Narmada, an upper-caste wife buffeted by political change, is the reason to see overlong Hindi-lingo pic, which limns subtler side of femme subservience in Asian subcontinent. Play’s assured at women’s fests, but it will otherwise stay home, too.
Whatever else is in the wind, Narmada’s emotionally remote, nationalist husband always seems to end up in prison. But even when free, he’s too busy getting his young mistress pregnant to pay proper attention. Then the British leave, in a period leading to Nehru’s 1964 death, and her compensatory privileges keep eroding. Narmada’s life perks up when hubby brings home a boy for the childless couple to adopt, but this brings out more conflicts of class and sex, leading to a quietly empowering resolution. Well-lensed effort is aided by a flavorful score, built around sitar, vibes and flute, but there are few scenes that couldn’t have been trimmed a bit. Title (occasionally written in press notes as “Tai Sahib”) translates as something like “Mrs. Boss.”