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Raasaleela review: Discovering devotion in nature conservation

Release Date: 07 May 2021 / 13min


Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

The short fiction film will be screened at the upcoming virtual Rising Gardens Film Festival.

Sahara Sharma’s short fiction film from Nepal, Raasaleela, takes inspiration from the true story of Radha Chaudhary, a conservationist who has dedicated her life to protecting Bardiya National Park. Now working as the chairperson, Thakurwara VDC in Bardia, she has spent two decades in the field and paved the way for women’s voices to be heard in conservation efforts.

The film begins with a story about the ways in which peoples’ attitudes towards wild animals have changed over time. We are taken to a moment of crisis, where a rhino has come to the village from the adjoining forest and the villagers, thinking that the beast has captured a young child, are getting ready to attack it. These events are interspersed with flashbacks of Radha’s journey as a conservationist.

We see Radha’s struggle to be heard by a committee of men who feel that women have no role to play in the national park and its protection. As one of the men says, “You take care at home, we will take care of the rest.” However, undeterred, she continues her work, vexing the people in the village, who feel she has a political agenda. However, despite the opposition, Radha follows a philosophy wherein one can conquer all odds through love. 

Raasaleela interprets Raas Leela as the dance of divine love where nature is seen as part of the divine. The film blends myth, fantasy, religion and reality to examine the ways in which the relationship between people and wildlife is often marred by incorrect information. It is this attitude that leads Radha to develop an ingenious strategy to save nature and wildlife. 

While the film focuses on Radha’s journey, we don’t quite see many of the hurdles that she faced along the way, getting just a small glimpse of them instead. The choice of fictionalising her life leaves the film disjointed at certain moments as it seems unable to decide how much to focus on her personal life in comparison with her work. 

The film was made as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations in 2018 and will be screened at the upcoming Rising Gardens Film Festival that will be organised virtually from 16-19 April.

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