Dweepa (2002)

Run Time - 132 min.  |   Countries - India   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Vick

Like those of his most obvious influence, the great Satyajit Ray, Girish Kasaravalli's films often concern the conflict between modernity and tradition in contemporary India. Just as Ray's most memorable films depict life in the villages of his native Bengal state, Kasaravalli's focus on Karnataka, the rural region of Southern India where he grew up. In Dweepa, he makes the area's annual monsoons a major character. The film is divided into sections named for the different kinds of rain, each of which serves a particular purpose in the planting and harvest cycle of the region's mainly agrarian residents. Indeed, the island where Nagi (Soundarya) and her husband, Ganapa, live looks like an Edenic paradise, with its lush greenery rising from a wide, placid river. But their traditional, contented life is soon disrupted by increasing pressure from the government to move out or be forced out. For much of the film the couple, along with Ganapa's father and cousin, are holed up in the abandoned home of a village elder, battling both the elements and the local authorities. Their isolation begins to create rifts in their own relationships as well. Nagi, a force of nature herself, at first resists the decision to stay, but soon takes up the cause with more force than her husband, and it is her strong will that sees them through even when he nearly gives up. Grounded by Kasaravalli's precisely detailed, masterfully poetic images of the specific landscape of the Malenadu hills of his childhood, Dweepa nevertheless becomes a universal, almost mythic tale of the age-old conflicts between man and nature, progress and tradition.