In one scene of Nila Madhab Panda’s Kadvi Hawa, an old farmer, Hedu (Sanjay Mishra) describes himself as barren land--which even though green and fertile earlier, is of no use at the time being. It’s rather a burden for its owner. The same way, Hedu, a successful, strong farmer in his younger years, is now a sightless man, crippled by old age, considering himself a burden for his son, Mukund (Bhupesh Singh).
Hedu lives in Mahua in Rajasthan, once a haven for farming, with Mukund and his family. The people here have even forgotten the scent of rainfall. A young kid in the area quizzed by his teacher about the number of seasons; he says there’s only two. While it amuses the classmates and the teachers alike, he justifies by saying that there’s only summer or winter. Perplexed, the teacher asks him about monsoon. “It rains only for two-three days in a year; sometimes in summer and sometimes in winter,” replies the kid.
In the village, lack of rainfall has led many farmers into debt traps in the form of bank loans. Hedu’s son is also one of them. And the blind father fears that like many other young farmers of the village, he too will commit suicide driven by lack of options. In a desperate attempt of stopping that from happening, Hedu strikes an unusual chord with Gunu Baba (Ranveer Shorey), a ruthless bank agent from Odisha, who is in the village for collection. He is often referred as yamdoot (god of death).
His presence in the village scares Hedu. And, as an audience, his menacing act in the beginning of the movie and later the villagers’ description of him, makes Gunu Baba an ominous character (thanks to Shorey’s gripping performance). It’s only later that you realise that he is trapped in an almost similar desperate situation. If the parched land and no rainfall have plagued Mahua in Rajasthan, frequent cyclones in Gunu’s village in Odisha have threatened him and his family in the coastal state. Each of the two, wanting to save their respective families from the wrath of the climate change, end up with a Faustian deal--only to, perhaps, regret later.
The film took me back to the Marathi film Ringan (Best Feature Film in Marathi at the 63rd National Award) that released earlier this year. That too, overwhelmingly, captured the most pressing issue of our times--farmer suicides. At the centre of the film was the story of a young father and his son--the former who often contemplated suicide, but stopped thinking of his son. The film took a spiritual sojourn--almost giving out a message to farmers to find a way out this situation that is hardly their creation.
Unlike Ringan, Panda doesn’t take a spiritual route; neither does he leave a message that could help resolve the crisis. What he does, however, is leave you with an emptiness, a feeling where you become as desperate as the two main characters. He creates the shrivelled landscape with Ramanuj Dutta on camera, with much sincerity. You feel the dryness in the weather and aridity in the soil in each frame. The sweaty, bare bodies of the people just adds to it. Panda, with films like I Am Kalam, Jalpari and Kaun Kitney Paani Mein, have often raised issues that afflict the society. With Kadvi Hawa, it’s just a step forward for him.
Mishra, often seen doing over-the-top characters in masala films (an image that also reverberates among the masses) is a charting a path for himself in a parallel space with Aankhon Dekhi’s Bauji and Kadvi Hawa’s Hedu with many others in between. He is not just exemplary as a sightless man who doesn’t demonstrate his disability; he is also remarkable in expressing each emotion (fear, sorrow, desperation, guilt) that his character goes through in the most intriguing fashion.
Tannistha Chatterjee as the daughter-in-law, like most of her characters, gets completely into it. Not once does she let you feel that she isn’t the village woman she is meant to be. Equally good is Singh as the son--in the small part that he gets, he earnestly plays a man suffering from the situation at hand. At 100-minutes, Kadvi Hawa, is crisp tale showcasing one of the bitter truths of our time--made more disturbing with Gulzar’s recitation of his introspective poem, Mausam Beghar Honey Lage Hain--as the credits roll.
Film: Kadvi Hawa
Director: Nila Madhab Panda
Starring: Sanjay Mishra, Ranveer Shorey, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Bhupesh Singh