Review of Virgin Goat (Laadli Laila) by Murali Nair, India, 2010

Still from Virgin Goat (Laadli Laila) by Murali

Still from Virgin Goat (Laadli Laila) by Murali

Kalyan Singh had to sell all his land and goats to pay for his daughter’s wedding. All he has left is one goat. Her name is Laila and she is barren. Singh, however, refuses to accept this and goes in a desperate journey to find a mating partner for his beloved goat.

Virgin Goat (Laadli Laila) is much more than a simple “goat matchmaker” story though. Murali Nair uses his film to reflect the social, sexual and political challenges Indians like Singh face. The barren goat, in many ways, represents Singh and his inability to give and to move forward.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Nair uses a lot of humour, spiced up with Indian mysticism, to lighten the weight of his message. He also cuts his film into different sequences, so similar to a TV series that I was almost expecting to see an ad break. This, together with the weird characters and dreamlike scenes, makes the story distant and unreal; it is as if the filmmaker was trying to remind his viewers that Singh is just a made-up character.

The story goes far beyond him to delve into the lives of rural Indians. When Singh has to confront the fact that Laila is barren, he loses his mind. It’s a rather predictable end for such an untypical story.

This review was published in Nisimazine Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi film fesival 2010’s daily bulletin by NISI MASA.

Review of Pink Saris By Kim Longinotto UK/India

Red might be the colour associated with revolt around the world, but in India it’s pink. Kim Longinotto follows the “Pink Gang”, a group of women who wear pink saris as a symbol of their revolt against their society. At least that’s how they introduce themselves at the beginning. But you soon find out that they are victims of domestic violence, rape and social exclusion rather than revolutionary figures.

With nowhere to go, they gather at the house of Sampat Pal. Loud and aggressive, Pal has made reconciling these women with their families, husbands and lovers her mission. She goes as far as threatening families and quarrelling with the police to set the women’s lives right, although it doesn’t always work. Not only does she fail to help the women, but she also risks her own marriage.

I don’t like where you are going! You want to be famous so be…. I like to be as small as an ant”, her angry husband murmurs while threatening to leave her. Pal does enjoy playing the role of the “messiah of women”, and constantly reminds the violated women (and the viewers) that they have no one else but her, to the extent that you are no longer able to appreciate her work.

Shot with a hand-held camera, the film moves from one violated woman’s story to another without allowing us enough intimacy to sympathize with them. As a result, the film seems more like a series of reportages wherein people are numbers rather than real humans. The intensive use of text to give background information about the women distances you even more from them. All that remains in your mind are their pink saris.

This review was published in Nisimazine Abu Dhabi 2010, Abu Dhabi film festival’s daily bulletin