The film Unmaad has virtually turned out like a play on the screen. And with it, the theatrics of cow politics has also been laid bare. This is what the writer-cum-director Shahid Kabir and his humble and non-starry casts have really been able to achieve. Their message is against a kind of frenzy that pushes poor inhabiting villages, or rural backwaters of the country, into strife and misery.
As a result of this intimidation and even death for some at the hands of communally charged blowhards looks to be a certainty like what has often been the case recently in real life.
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Though dished out simply and with marked realism, the effect of the film may linger long after seeing it. And, thus, those behind this low-budget and publically funded effort have been successful in their mission. Most of them have been into theatre and street plays before embarking upon their ambitious project that shaped their first film.
Shahid says that Unmaad is Hindi word for madness or frenzy. And this is what has come to mark the politics of the day with the result that neighbours in villages are becoming virtual foes and dairying is in dire straits, posing a challenge to the rural folks.
One of the main protagonists of the film is Kallu. A butcher by vocation, he is rendered jobless because of the recent turn of events where his trade has come to have a stigma and, thus, gets nearly shut. His children are pushed to the verge of starvation. And when he tries to borrow money from a Brahmin friend and co-villager what he gets is not cash but an old ox to be sold by him so as to get him going with the money that it may bring.
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While herding it to the village cattle fair, Kallu gets caught by angry cow protectors of his village. His pleas that the bovid was given to him by his friend Shambhu to sell go unheard. And the leader of the ostensible cow saviours group Shankar smarts over the idea of using his catch to impress his party bosses and reach the legislative assembly.
Such are the demands of today’s politics that Shankar tries to meet and which the film brings out succinctly as Shankar insists that he has caught a butcher with a cow and not the plough pulling old ox given by none other but his brother Shambhu.
The characters of both Kallu and Shankar are played with remarkable finesse by Imtiaz Ahmad and Amit Pundir. Both of them have been staging plays and the former has graduated from NSD or National School of Drama. Other actors too are from theatre and thus are mint-fresh for films. Yet, Shahid has been able to not only put a story together out of the sad realities of today’s politics but also a film different from most others that are backed by huge money to prop up poor themes.
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Unmaad has a fair sprinkling of songs and a bit of love and romance between a young Hindu journalist and a Muslim poetry loving teenaged-girl of his village. Yet, this hardly becomes anything beyond a pointer to another variation of love-Jihad that of late has viciously been yet another source of bitterness and frenzy. But it never overshadows the main theme. The innocence of love has been kept intact without its being sullied by today’s rampant mania.
About the four songs, including an item number and the little romantic interlude and courtship in the film, Shahid says that though he hoped that these go well with the movie it has been so because of the format that feature films have come to have and the popular tastes that have developed around films overtime.
Yet, these demands of the times and tastes are met without allowing them to dilute or blur the main idea of the film, he adds, calling his venture a humble contribution of not only him but his colleagues and donors to meaningful, if not parallel, cinema.