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TRIKAL, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

India, 1984 (MIFF 1986)

Director: Shyam Benegal

There's no point in claiming that this enjoyable film is, in its entirety, representative of any of the many trends of Indian cinema, be they of stylistic, linguistic or political foundations For this conscious avoidance of easy labels, one suspects, TRIKAL has been both unjustly treated at home and largely ignored abroad. In many quite evident respects, the film owes much to Western melodramatic traditions, and also to the quasi-operatic style of modern epics like THE GODFATHER and HEAVEN'S GATE, even to the point of centering most of the action within tribal rituals like funerals and betrothals (not to mention the deliberate use of golden-toned lighting). And, as with these Western counterparts, music plays an important part in illuminating cultural contradictions Such a cultural melange was inevitable, however, in any story set on the island of Goa. a territory of the Portuguese Empire until the time of the action, 1961; a society which — in its upper classes at least — appears to have suffered a far greater integration into the culture of the coloniser than any other part of the Indian subcontinent. Thus do we find Dona Maria, matriarch of a well-to-do Brahmin Catholic family, consoling her grief at the loss of her husband Ernesto with a recording of a Portuguese fado, while Ruiz, a student from Bombay, serenades Ana with a song straight out of the tradition of B-grade Hindi Masala movies. Don Ernesto is mourned to the strains of the Latin Dies \rae. and a schmaltzy Hindi love song is converted into a Goan liberation anthem at the betrothal party. The plot boasts almost every imaginable ingredient of a good, meaty melodrama: a full moon; a patriarch who has spared no maiden within his expansive reach, a stolen jewel-box; an elopement from an arranged marriage; inter-caste romances; a number of embarrassing pregnancies; recriminating visitations by spirits of the family's past victims; a freedom fighter in the cellar: and an unrequited lover who has a habit of passing out in women's laps.

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