|Produced By||Prakash Jha|
|Directed By||Prakash Jha|
|Music By||Raghunath Seth|
|Manohar Singh||Annu Kapoor|
|Sreela Mazumdar||Deepti Naval|
|Pyare Mohan Sahay|
The story of ‘Damul’ is about a bonded labourer who is forced to steal for his landlord. Set in rural Bihar of 1980s, the film focuses on the caste politics and the oppression of the lower castes in the region through bonded labour. The film also highlights the issue of heavy migration of the poor villagers of Bihar to richer states like Punjab in search of livelihood.
Madho Pande (Manohar Singh), is a Brahmin local chief and powerful landlord who to rig an upcoming village election kills his own man Puniya and then conspires to get Puniya’s son Sanjeevan (Annu Kapoor), to work for him as a bonded labor. He gets him into a debt and makes him steal cattle from neighboring villages to pay off his loan. In a parallel development the landlord’s younger brother mercilessly kills his labourers who try to flee from his construction site due to low wages. The villagers for fear of their own lives do not come forward to name the perpetrators of the heinous crime. Finally, the landlord’s mistress Mahatmain (Deepti Naval) decides to come out and make a statement before the authorities. Madho Pande learns of her resolve and arranges to kill her and gets Sanjeevan arrested for her murder. Sanjeevan is tried and sentenced to death by hanging.
Read the complete summary HERE
A large population of workers involved in agriculture, construction and other labour intensive jobs in the entire northern belt of India hails from Bihar and this movie kind of tells you why. The social and economic divide in the country has compelled several film makers over the years to present their rendition of the story of exploitation and poverty and how feudal lords and powerful people have ruled the masses. Over the decades, the only thing which has changed is the nature and impact of this exploitation. The common man on the road is still struggling to find a voice and make himself heard.
However, what sets this film apart is that it sets itself in a time and place warp and doesn’t attempt to outdo itself. The camerawork is low key and narration is documentary like and accentuated by strong performances throughout. The beauty of this movie rests in its mediocrity – depicting the situations and allowing the viewer to make his own judgment. Another thing that probably works in this movie’s favor is that the onus of carrying the story doesn’t rest on the shoulders of a single actor but is shared throughout by its cast. While Annu Kapoor excels in his victim’s role, Manohar Singh realistically establishes himself as a conniving head strong politician and leader. Deepti Naval plays a small role which is slightly wayward to the central plot but does well within the limited territory of her character.
And just as the climax draws towards a predictable and melancholic conclusion, Prakash Jha plays a master stroke and gives the reigns to Sreela Mazumdar’s character to finish the story. Personally I would have liked her one dimensional character to be better sketched but then again movies from such off beat genre, though thought provoking are not always the best entertainers.
The reason I would recommend anyone to spend time and watch this movie is for its after thought. Though set in 1980s and involving characters struggling hard to make ends meet, the situation can be superimposed and still applied to present day living which is sad if you think about it. Thirty years later (from the period in the movie), people are still struggling to fight the corruption stemming from politics and even today justice eludes those who can’t pay for it.
To conclude, a 3 out of 5 movie that you can watch on a dreary Sunday afternoon if you wish to sit on your couch. Available on YouTube as of now.