In Duvidha, with its tapestry of montages, tableaux and water colour vistas, Mani Kaul inflused realism with dream vision, folklore and mythos. Laced with formal rigour, deft lyricism and a striking visual palette, and based on a Rajasthani folktale by noted writer Vijayadan Detha, it touched upon multiple thematic elelements, viz. the feudal systems and deeply inbred patriarchal setups, a subtle juxtaposition between philistine and aesthete, and, perhaps most importantly, powerful feminist subtexts. When a young newlywed couple – a merchant’s son (Ravi Menon) and his sensual wife (Raisa Padamsee, daughter of renowned modernist painter Akbar Padamsee) – are on the way to their tiny village in Rajasthan, a ghost gets attracted to the bride when they halt under a banyan tree where he resides; hence, upon coming to know that the son has taken leave right after for 5 years in order to make money, the ghost comes in the garb of the husband and take his place in the household. In the most subservice stance, she accepts the impersonator, not unknowingly but in full knowledge, as he’s forthright in revealing his identity as well as his desire for physical intimacy with her. The “ghost”, therefore, consummates marriage for the lonely bride seeking company. However, she becomes pregnant before long and the “real” husband too returns, thus leading to the need for the scandalized village to resolve this conundrum. The film is filled with exquisite washed out images shot in saturated colours, oftentimes in grainy closeups, and interspersed with freeze frames; that, along with its minimalism and absorbing use of Manganiyar folk music, gave a sense of a land where time and social mores are frozen standstill.
Director: Mani Kaul
Genre: Drama/Rural Drama/Avant-Garde Film