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India, 1985 (MIFF 1988, Asian Cinema Showcase)

Director: Ramesh Sharma

A political mystery thriller that centres on a chain of events in the troubled Pujab, Ramesh Sharma in his tightly crafted first feature is looking into the repercussions of political corruption and intrigue. Vikas is Executive Editor of a prestigious English language newspaper devoted to exposing the corrupt activities of the local ruling class. His hometown is the hotspot of the trouble, and through his pursuit of the network of intrigue he gets embroiled in the events himself. Later, through sources found by his social worker wife he discovers to his shock that he has unwittingly been manipulated, and is therefore an accomplice in the plot.

The film portrays a spectrum of values and beliefs from the philosophical convictions of the educated, the high-flown moralism of the elite, the expedience of self-interested politicians and the manifestation of its destructive, counter-productive influences at the popular level.

Communalism is a divisive force in the contemporary politics with recent 'parallel films' looking into the nature of the mass-psychology at its source. Communities of sectarian or cultural groupings are mobilized by the power-hungry under the guise of fundamentalist-style causes. The futility and waste is illuminated by the skilfully recreated scenes of not and conflagration, and its broad social insights.

The national premiere of the film on Indian television was cancelled at the last moment as political issues had 'rendered it sensitive' Following a legal appeal it was reinstated, but its theatrical release was likewise hindered by claims that it was derogatory to the legal profession. Nevertheless it won 3 national awards. It is a slick film, transporting its characters through its turbulence and giving a pragmatic, gritty overview of the dynamics of Indian politics. - V.D.

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