Khandahar, 1983

Mrinal Sen’s Khandahar (1983) is an absorbing, intelligently constructed film that centers on a blind, invalid, elderly woman (Gita Sen) of aristocratic descent who is cared for by her devoted, unmarried daughter, Jamini (Shabana Azmi) in the ancient ruins of a feudal-era zamindari (the landowner’s estate). On a Christmas holiday weekend, Jamini’s cousin Dipu (Pankaj Kapoor) convinces his friends Subhash (Naseeruddin Shah) and Anil (Annu Kapoor) to take a break from their jobs in the city to visit his ancestral home in the remote countryside. Upon hearing that Dipu has returned, the mother becomes convinced that he has returned with Jamini’s prearranged suitor in order to finalize their long-awaited marriage. Sen’s visual aesthetic and incorporation of landscape as a metaphor for spiritual (and economic) desolation is especially stunning and provides tremendous depth to the film’s themes of duty, obsolescence, and fading tradition.

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