The only full-length books or movies I enjoy are either documentaries or dramas. For the rest of them, I’d rather have them a short fiction or short movies. So, when I got my new phone last week I wondered what to do with all the new ‘unclaimed’ memory 😀 and I decided to download short films from YouTube.
“Ooh…the title looks interesting…this actor does short films??…thriller in a short film…” that’s how I chose and landed on two mind-blowing movies starring Radhika Apte. (I’ll discuss only one here and may be another in next post.)
So, I had to watch this Sujoy Ghosh’s movie again to understand how in this modern version, Ahalya, the innocent takes a stand for herself and her husband supports her.
Later, I was told I was two years late in catching up this exceptional thriller.
My first watch of Ahalya
I was struck by an uncanny resemblance of the plot with a subplot from mythological epic, Ramayana – Ahalya, the story of a woman turned to stone.
Here’s a crisp version to refresh your memory:
Brahma created Ahalya as the most beautiful, attractive and eternally young woman on the earth, and married her off to Maharishi Gautam, who was much older to her. Lord Indra being himself was smitten by her beauty and made sexual advances which she refused saying that she loves her husband and would not sleep with any man except him.
Indra then takes the guise of her husband and pays her a visit when Sage Gautam was off for his meditation. As luck would have it, the sage returns earlier than usual and catches them in the act. Shaken, Ahalya tries to explain herself but Gautam curses her to turn to stone (like a still object living on air with ordinary appearance whom no one would pay attention too) and lie there eternally as an example to womankind for infidelity penance.
Later, Indra explains what happened and Gautam tries to revoke his curse by saying that when she is touched by a holy figure (in this case, Rama), she would return to her normal human form.
To confirm if the plot of this film was based on this story, I watched it another time.
My second watch: The right and the wrong
I was right! Just check out the names of the characters:
Police officer: Indra Sen; Much older husband: Goutam Sadhu (Sadhu is a common Bangla surname, I confirmed.); Ahalya is, well Ahalya, an attractive woman who is very much into her husband.
The nomenclature is just the beginning of the allegorical retelling of the story of Ahalya with an attempt to right the wrongs.
“It’s all because of her.”
Gautam is a famed artist and the choice of profession by Sujoy Ghosh is not random. Anyone who laid eyes on his wife was turned to stone by her. The story of Maharishi Gautam wouldn’t have been so legendary had Brahma not wed him to Ahalya.
Creative venture or not, women are always an important part in creation and must be given due credit for their roles.
“This stone has magical powers. Whoever touches it can take any form he wants.”
This was supposed to be a test of character. The husband permits the police officer to use the stone’s powers and take his guise while delivering his wife’s phone to her room. Indra Sen was surprised to find that he wasn’t lying and leaves. Right then, he lets lust get better of him and finds himself turned to stone.
In the original story, Gautam cursed Indra too removing his testicles and making a thousand vaginas pop out in his body (which earned Indra the name Sahastra-aksh, one with a thousand eyes). He pleads mercy and so, the sage turns the vaginas to eyes which eventually turn out in favour of Indra as he can see everything around the world in a split second. Honestly, Indra’s curse does feel like justice. He would really never have to look at another woman for carnal pleasure! 😀
Innocence, attractiveness, beauty are natural. Even lust is natural. Acting on it isn’t. And in this story, the record is set right. Only the guilty shall be punished.
The men weren’t trapped in stone. They were trapped in their lust.
“Why did you say that you’re not good in bed?”
Part of all the enraged curse was an insecurity of not being good enough for his young wife. This also comes across in the modern version where Gautam Sadhu tells the police officer that he is not good in bed and his wife could go marry someone more suited for her age. To which the wife later questions him (policeman in disguise) why he says such things about himself and confesses her love to him almost like nursing his ego and pride. No matter how loving this looks, it’s something that I feel was missed this version.
The first narration and the latest discussion
Indra was punished, but revived instantly in the original story which did not sit right with me. To gain acceptance of his kingdom, Rama discarded his pregnant wife even after making her walk through flames to prove her purity.
When I first heard Ahalya’s story from my grandmother, even as a young girl I couldn’t understand how she was punished for standing up for the right thing, “It’s not her fault that she is attractive. It’s not her fault that she couldn’t see through Indra’s magic!” I hurled back.
“It’s woman’s destiny. You’ll know when you get older,” my grandmother replied. I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t understand it now.
It’s particularly hard to understand because even though the cases are turning out in favour of women, some use their innocence as a manipulation tool and put the whole womankind on the stand to answer questions like, “How can you just ignore the fact that since the moment she opened the door she was trying to seduce the police officer to get into bed with her? With all that smiling and sorry-but-no-sorry touches?”
“Did you miss watching Pink?” was my response. “A woman’s dressing, smiling, polite demeanour, or even mistakenly touching someone is not an invitation to sleep with her.”
Some went half a mile ahead to call her husband her pimp. I just stared them till they became uncomfortable.
Could I have had responded in a better way?
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