The film opens with a woman going through labour pains. Helped by two village women, she goes through the process of giving birth while her husband and male relatives wait outside. The men are tense but not out of concern for the welfare of the woman or the baby but rather they want to know whether the baby is a girl or a boy. The baby is a girl and the men consider it bad news. The next scene shows the father drowning the crying baby in a pot of milk. Shocking, yes. But for many villagers in India, it is an all-too familiar scene. Female infanticide has led to an alarming fall in the ratio of men to women. Manish Jhaâ€™s â€śMatrubhoomi - A Nation Without Womenâ€ť explores what would happen if women were to disappear from India completely.
Ramcharan (Sudhir Pandey) is the father of five sons, Sooraj (Sushant Singh), Brijesh (Sanjay Kumar), Lokesh (Shrivas Nydu), Shailesh (Deepak Kumar Bandhu) and Rakesh (Pankaj Jha). All of the sons are at a marriageable age but the problem is that they cannot find a girl anywhere at all. There is not a single girl in their village and the sexually frustrated men are forced to make do with pornography, homosexuality and bestiality.
The local panditji Jagannath (Piyush Mishra) hears a girl singing near the lake. He follows the frightened girl to her home and acquaints himself with her father. From him, he learns that her name is Kalki (played by Tulip Joshi, last seen credited as Sanjana in â€śMere Yaar Ki Shaadi Haiâ€ť). Jagannath goes running to inform Ramcharan about his exciting discovery. Almost immediately, Ramcharan makes a marriage proposal for his eldest son to Kalki. So desperate are all the brothers that somehow Kalki ends up being married to all of them.
In their house, Kalki suffers daily abuse. All the brothers and even her father-in-law rape her. The only husband who shows her kindness and love is Sooraj. Kalki falls in love with him but this enrages all the other men in the household. Out of jealousy, Sooraj is killed by one of his brothers. A desperate Kalki makes an attempt to escape from the madhouse but she is caught and dragged to the cowshed by her husbands. She remains there, shackled in chains while all the men from the village come to rape her one by one. Kalki becomes pregnant but everyone claims paternity to the unborn baby. A chaotic furore ensues between the men and the whole village descends into complete and utter insanityâ€¦
â€śMatrubhoomiâ€ť is absolutely riveting to watch. I am a squeamish person so I predicted that the film might be difficult to view at times. But the rape scenes are suggested rather than shown graphically and the film ends up being more powerful for that. What does leave a disturbing impression is the way that Tulip Joshi reacts after every time her character is raped. She lies there lifeless yet in pain and your heart goes out to her. She says very few lines in the movie but this is an astonishing performance by her. All of the male actors do their jobs well and express the desperation of their sexual frustration that turns them into such animals.
Sushant Singh impresses as a caring person who falls in love with his wife.
Manish Jha, who has written and directed the film, gives it the masterly and sensitive touch that a subject like this needed. He even shows a wry sense of humour as witnessed in the scene where men start weeping emotionally while viewing a naked woman in a pornographic film. After being sexually aroused by the video, one of the brothers in the family goes to relieve his frustrations by abusing a cow. One canâ€™t miss the subtext here. The cow is a revered animal in Hinduism and by showing bestiality along with the rape of Kalki, Jha underlines how women are worshipped as goddesses in India and yet are abused and killed. Venu Gopalâ€™s cinematography gives the screen a bleak and dark lookâ€¦ A kind of cinematic look that reveals how this society is loveless and depraved. The lighting slowly changes as Kalki hits the final stage of pregnancy and the birth of her baby brings an inspirational yet ambiguous ending. The awesome background score by Salim-Suleiman leaves its mark and builds the tension all the way throughout the film.
A shocking, brutal and engrossing account of a possible future, â€śMatrubhoomi - A Nation Without Womenâ€ť is a must-see!