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American Women's Club of Hamburg

WIDOW OF SILENCE - film review

Praveen Morchhale, India

The lushness and tactility of a Vermeer painting is transposed into the opening sequence of this dramatic, colorful film. Kashmir valley hasn’t escaped the profuse violence and corruption rampant in this region of Indian. Husbands hauled off by government agencies rarely return, relegating wives to ostracism as “half-widows.” Now seven years on, after moving heaven and earth looking for her husband, the Muslim Aasia’s (Shilpi Marwaha) fragile hope has been replaced by reality. She must think about 11-year-old Inaya (Noorjahan) and their future; together they care for her seriously ill mother-in-law. Aasia’s applied for a death certificate, but without the body Registrar “Sir” (Ajay Chourey) keeps her dangling, demanding daily office appointments. This means daily taxi trips, although the driver’s affability (Bilal Ahmad) alleviates tediousness. Pleasant and respectful to passengers and border guards, his philosophical, lyrically phrased commentaries embrace all topics. In lieu of Aasia’s rejections and frustrated, “Sir” proposes a self-fulfilling scheme that catches her off-guard. When Aasia confides to a colleague at the hospital, her revelations are unexpected, and fortifying. Resigned but not beaten, Aasia embarks on a hazardous, solitary scramble to survive.

From that first shot to the last 85 minutes later, writer-director Praveen Morchhale’s certitude promises an unforgettable, metaphorically poetic film. Cinematographer Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah’s impact is breathtaking: eye-catching, variable framing and beautifully composed shots moreover conveys information (particularly during the back and forth taxi trips) that adds to the story. Creatively edited, the emotional sound design, and the sparingly used, mournful piano music accentuates the protagonist’s distressing quandary. Morchale’s interpretation perceptively depicts the powerful patriarchal stranglehold over women in the societal hierarchy, nevertheless sides with women, apropos WIDOW OF SILENCE’s brilliant, categorically appropriate, and poetically just ending. It won the best film award at the Kolkata (Calcutta) Indian competition. (MH)

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