Skip to main content

DEATH SENTENCE

India, 1997 (MIFF 1998, International Panorama)

Director: Prakash Jha

Sunset. A wide-screen expanse bathed in a blood red glow. Two women, their colourful saris almost luminous, crest a hill bathed in the last fiery rays of dusk. The scene is stunning, gorgeous for a few seconds until - like (American) Indians in a classic Western - the silhouettes of a mob, literally baying for blood, rise behind the women. In the ensuing horrific seconds the women, one of them pregnant, are captured, beaten savagely, stoned and their corpses tossed unceremoniously from a bridge.

Whewi Where do you go after an opening like that? Director Prakash Jha takes the challenge and crafts one of the most exciting, beautiful and incendiary Indian dramas in a decade. While retaining classic structure and themes, Death Sentence is more like High Noon in Bihar. Often 'socially progressive' films from the region make only slight criticism of the prevailing order or stop short of an aggressive attack on convention. Jha slams the treatment of Indian women from daily disrespect to abhorrent execution practices, targetting petty corruption, religious hypocrisy and a seedy assortment of sins from blackmail and extortion to murder along the way.

Ablaze with colour, Jha crams each frame of Death Sentence with the golds, reds, greens and blues of Northern Indian landscape, architecture and costume. A crooked quarrying deal, a sect of murderous monks, dynamite boobytraps and forced prostitution ferment into a violent cataclysm where Hell hath no fury like a woman pushed too far. Explosive, crucial viewing!

Prakash Jha - born in 1953 in Bihar, the setting of Death Sentence - has long been associated with the Indian grassroots movement for social and cultural renaissance. Having worked on many acclaimed documentaries and television series, Jha has won numerous awards for his previous films Damul and Parinati.

See also...

PAS DE DEUX

Pheroza is a Parsee, a descendant of the ancient Zoroastrians of Persia Although the Parsees have lived in India for 13 centures as a tiny minority in the sub-continent, they have maintained the ... More »

DANCE OF THE WIND

Voted audience favourite at both the London and Nantes Film Festivals, Rajan Khosa's magnificent debut, Dance of the Wind, probes the dynamics of the Indian oral tradition. Pallavi, a successful ... More »

SPLIT WIDE OPEN

A pacy, ultra-hip mosaic unlike anything previously seen from India. Dev Benegal has crafted a dynamic expose of India's great metropolis, Mumbai (Bombay). Some of the most expensive real estate in ... More »

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART

Spectacular impossibly vibrant and charged with electric song and dance, this Bollywood epic embodies the modern India in comedy, tragedy and music, music, music! ... In a palatial house in Gujart ... More »

THE WRESTLERS

Uttara is the stylised reaction of Indian director Buddhadeb Dasgupta to the outbursts of religious fundamentalism and intolerance in both the East and West. In addition, the film is an intriguing ... More »

MAYA

Maya is a happy little 12-year-old girl living with a foster family she considers to be her own. She and her foster brother Sonjay are perfectly matched in size, athletic ability, adventurousness and ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director