Swaraj: The little Republic

Swaraj: The little Republic – Movie Review

Silhouettes against a setting sun with an Indian Ocean score running into a tune, sand dunes sing songs of endurance, a rising moon, the night light gradually changes into a scorching day where women filling their pots with water bring the viewer right back to reality, this is how Anwar Jamal’s film Swaraj : The little republic embarks on a journey of struggle, humour, drama, fantasy and perseverance .

A film where four women join to vanquish the evil social structures and obtain the one most necessary element – water.  A country with a past which indicates goddess worship as an integral part, a country which in its own mythology empowered women has descended to objectification of the very same, rendering them into mere inconsequent home makers and goddess shakthi  becomes a mere stone statue.

Swaraj breaks through these notions by enabling the women folk with physical and mental strength rendering them back into the empowered mythical beings. Leela from a normal house wife transforms into the mother Kali the goddess who annihilates the evil, vanquishing the bad and rampaging to achieve her end… a prayer is sung. The journey begins with blank faces charged with angst, with men sidelining the woman, with torture and sacrifice. She has her stand and will walk through fire to achieve it, with her consorts for support she is ready to walk through the desert. The desert becomes her battleground, the winds whistling and cheering, the dunes rising up in a rage as if to support this thandavanrutya. The mythical beings come back to life.

A mirage, which holds the visions of the past, the wishful future and other  incidents, of glory and death. The sufi saint relates the story of Hussain who refused to accept a false prophet and lost his life battling it out starving for water. Karbala is the battleground, Karbala is where good wins over evil, even after death.

The singing  old man asks “ In the desert there is the sky … there are the dunes … where is the water ? where there is water there is life… Where there is life there are humans … but where is humanity?”. Days pass, after many moons comes the judgment day when they are blessed, pipes are given to be laid in their village. Leela and her consorts are victorious, they have achieved what they set out to and they have broken the walls of discrimination. The good wins over evil but for how long? Evil comes back with a vengeance, the discriminative social structures are stronger than the good … An unexpected climax, there is a turn of events there is no definite end… the struggle goes on even after movie is over.

What is water to an economically sound upper class, urban consumer ?  a  liquid  but this very liquid, a resource which is as essential as oxygen surpasses these mundane needs when seen in a rural context. It transforms into a resource when scarce endowing the ability to compel the oppressed to cut across borders of caste, creed, religion and gender bias.

The film touches upon most of the issues that need to get to the fore through media to reach to the urban community which lives in oblivion.

Shot in just 40 days this dramatic 90min film has an underlying sufi touch to it which is supplied adequately by the sufi saint and his repetitive “ Karbala” voiced out in odd intervals between the film along with the haunting music. The visualization has the capability to take with it the viewer into this dry land, though the characters seem behind a veil which cannot be removed, detached but awed the viewer knows what it is to live with water being scarce.

Parinitha Konanur

Published article – in the Magazine “Deep Focus”

A review of the Movie – Swaraj: The little Republic – A film by Anwar Jamal