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The practice of forcibly dedicating men and women to the Indian goddess Yellamma is loudly condemned in helmer Rajiv Patil’s overstuffed drama “The Awakening.” In the southern state of Karnataka, devotees of the goddess — known as “jogtin” (female) or “jogta” (male) — are treated as sex slaves and viewed with a mixture of semi-respect and disdain. Patil’s substitution of hysterics for nuanced drama means the pic probably has a greater chance of getting its worthy message across to locals rather than fest auds, though Subcontinental sidebars may be roused by the fascinating subject.

When her hair becomes matted, Suli (Mukta Barve) is made to give herself to Yellamma as a way of countering the bad omen. At the same time, Tayappa (Upendra Limaye, especially strong) discovers blood in his urine and is forced to don a sari and live as a woman among the goddess’s acolytes. The narrative is at its most interesting when making comparisons between corrupted older devotees, like cross-dressing Yemnja (Kishore Kadam), and Suli and Tayappa, who resist their humiliation. Camerawork nicely glides and circles, but insistent choral music drowns moments of subtlety. Print was screened on DigiBeta.

The Awakening

(India)

  • Production: An iDream production. (International sales: iDream Independent Pictures, London.) Produced by Shripal Morakhia. Executive producers, Ashish Bhatnagar, Vidhyut Jain. Directed by Rajiv Patil. Screenplay, Sanjay Krishnaji Patil.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Sanjay Jadhav; editor, Rajesh Rao; music, Ajay-Atul, Vijay Narayan; production designer, Mahesh Salgaonakar; costume designer, Neha-Nupura. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 14, 2009. Marathi dialogue. Running time: 92 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Mukta Barve, Upendra Limaye, Vinay Apte, Aditi Deshpande, Kishore Kadam.
  • Music By: