THE SQUARE CIRCLE (1996) [Feature]

India (MIFF 1997 , International)
Director: Amol Palekar

"In a land where sexuality is repressed and women are commodities, one man seeks to express the woman inside, and one woman seeks to suppress her own femininity. Together they must survive the perils and the prejudice, and discover love in The Square Circle." That's how one of those inappropriate American trailer voice-overs would describe this atypical Indian musical melodrama. Atypical because it deals with gender-crossing and female sexuality - this from a country whose film industry has yet to come to terms with on-screen sex and nudity.

A young girl (Sonali Kulkarni), escaping from bumbling kidnappers and a future in a brothel, encounters a transvestite (Nirmal Pandey) who has been brought up to sing, dance and act like a woman on stage, now dispossessed by the introduction of real female performers. They are thrown togethet by fate, and the transvestite transforms the girl into a man in order to travel the road back to her village safely.

The ingrained behaviours and social expecta­tions that the couple must forget, and how they respond to this, are effectively explored, and in true road movie fashion, they discover them­selves and each other along the way. With moments of manic comedy, poignancy, full-blown melodrama, and the occasional soul-searching musical number, The Square Circle is an unlikely but memorable mix of genres and sensibilities.

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