Mumbai, 23 Nov 2017 14:23 IST
Led admirably by a cast of Sanjai Mishra and Ranvir Shorey, this film revolves around the havoc wreaked on the lives of ordinary farmers by climate change.
Nila Madhab Panda's Kadvi Hawa is a bitter draught of truth to those urban audiences turning a blind eye to the collapsing environment around them. Beyond the rising skyscrapers, there are villages bemoaning the death of debt-riddled farmers; those who cannot harvest crops because of failing monsoons, and draughts, and in some cases, floods.
The film begins with the sight of a blind, old man (Sanjai Mishra) trundling through the arid emptiness of the Chambal valley. He hails from the Mahua village, that is full of suicidal and debt riddled farmers. Not wanting his son, Mukund, to reach the same conclusion, he travels all the way to town to find out if he can help reduce his debt in some way.
The bank's best loan collector, Gunu (Ranvir Shorey), is charged with the task of eking out money from these stricken farmers. Nicknamed 'Yamdoot' (God of Death), Gunu is a man driven to cruelty by another marker of climate change. From Orissa, he hopes to bring his family to this town in central India before it is consumed by the floods.
Thus, the farmer in a dry land and a loan collector from a flooded coast form an unlikely alliance. Between the two, they are on the way to happiness. The old man is paying off his son's loans, while Gunu is planning to bring his family down to his dry valley from the flood affected Orissa.
Except, their alliance has a human price to pay. In the end, they are all turned vagabonds, like the weather — unhappy with the change and unable to change it.
Panda's film is wonderfully shot and visualizes the dry, arid Chambal valley as David Lean does the desert. The desolateness reigns in every aspect of the film, from its sparse dialogues to the dusty look of its actors. The screenplay, while slow, has the density of a short story, and is filled with charming characters. Running parallel to this is the funny innocence of children growing up in a changed world.
One sequence has the school teacher teaching about the four seasons, when an alec little boy stands up suggesting there are only two seasons, summer and winter. Rains, he says, come for two days during the summer, and two days during the winter.
While it has its flaws (Pace for one, and a deus ex machina at the crucial moment another), the film is certainly worth a watch for the subtle play of emotions that run through it.
All of this is carried on the broad, masterful shoulders of Sanjai Mishra. As the blind, old man, Mishra shifts from canny to desperate to adorable with seamless ease. This is an actor at the peak of his craft, who can emote with mere gestures. Whether it is his relationship with his grand-daughter, Kuhu, or the quiet strife he has with his son, the actor plays it out with minimalism. At no point does Mishra slip into caricature and successfully delivers a character that stands out.
He is ably supported by Ranvir Shorey who is brilliant as the damned 'Yamdoot'. The actor portrays his character in such a way that it is difficult to envy him for his situation. His moments with Mishra are the hinges on which the film rests.
Tillotama Shome is another brilliant actor who is part of the cast, and does quite a lot with little expressions. Her ability to capture the character's soul can be seen in the singular scene where she douses her hearth with anger.
Nila Madhab Panda's film chooses to talk about the looming disaster of climate change precisely by not talking about it. It talks about the people suffering under this change, and thus, makes quite an impact. When the voice of poet/lyricist Gulzar rings out saying 'Mausam sab beghar hone lage hain' (The weather is now a vagabond), it is hard not to be moved.