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A RITUAL

India, 1977 (MIFF 1979)

Director: Girish Kasaravalli

Until recently, in some villages of India, if a widow was discovered to have taken a lover, she was outcast from the community, and ghatashraddha, the last rites were performed over her. This film by the young director, Girish Kasaravalli, shows the plight of such a widow.

Udupa is a highly respected Brahmin scholar who teaches the Veda to a diminishing number of students in his school. His recently widowed young daughter, Yamuna, lives with her father; she looks after the household and the needs of the resident pupils.

Nani, a little boy, who has recently been enrolled in the school, adopts Yamuna as a surrogate mother. The story is told as seen through Nani's observant eyes.

During his early days there, Nani is tormented by a couple of mischievous older students, Ganasha and Shastri. They dislike Yamuna and don't take their studies seriously.

Yamuna is in love with a primary school teacher, with whom she has a clandestine affair. When she becomes pregnant, she unsuccessfully tries to abort the child, and she soon attracts the attention of Godavaramma, another widow at the school.

During the absence of Udupa, who leaves the village in search of funds, discipline breaks down. Shastri and Ganesha bully Nani, spy on Yamuna, and discover her secret meetings. Godavaramma, the gossipy widow, spreads the news of Yamuna's pregnancy. By the time Udupa returns, everyone knows of her affair with the teacher, who, in the meantime, has disappeared.

Udupa then disowns his daughter and performs the last rites: for the villagers, she is dead, and she is forced to leave.

The bereaved Udupa closes down the school, and the stunned Nani is taken home by his father. As they come to the outskirts of the village, they see Yamuna, with her head shaven, sitting alone under a tree.

Best Direction, Mannheim.

Girish Kasaravalli

Born: 1950. Studied at the Poona Film Institute. Gatashraddha is his first feature film.

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