Bhavum: Emotions of Being (2003)

Release Date - Jul 19, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 111 min.  |   Countries - India  |  
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In this taut psychological drama from Indian-American filmmaker Satish Menon, Joy (Murali Menon) is an easily corrupted journalist in the southern Indian state of Kerala -- a socially progressive, yet serenely tropical, locale. He lives with his beloved and idealistic wife, Lata (Jyothirmayee), who teaches Dostoyevsky at the local college. Into their domestic bliss stumbles trouble in the form of Subadra (Mita Vasisht), Lata's long-lost and sniffily urban sister. Subadra is pregnant and has lost her husband in a fire; before long, however, her sudden and unexpected presence begins to intimate a dark, desperate secret in her past, and she stirs up a hornet's nest of desire, jealousy, and guilt. Joy wrestles with his sexual desire for Subadra, Lata exhausts herself to please and comfort the sister who abandoned her, Subadra both needs and disdains the pair's middle-class domesticity -- and around and around they go. If this sounds like an upper-middle-class Indian remake of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, it is -- but Menon, quite ambitiously, adds a unique layer of social commentary by having his characters drawn into a high-stakes political debate. Joy, ever tempted by material things, cannot resist an opportunity to exploit his media power in championing private corporations' role in managing public utilities. Drawn into a corrupt political process, his decision wins him great wealth and favor while losing him the respect of his wife. At the crossroads of traditional love and marriage, sexual desire, and worldly ambition, Joy and Lata's crumbling marriage comes to represent the moral and intellectual divides of a rapidly globalizing society, making the film a curiously modern and localized twist on a universally compelling plot. In Malayalam with English subtitles, this film won five Kerala State Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Debut Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Jyothirmayee.