Khwada: Film Review

Step inside a world of solitude and sacrifice

Posted: 07.08.15

Very few films make an audience speechless when you step outside of a screening, but this was the reaction after watching Khwada. Myself, my viewing companion and a group of fellow audience members hung around in the cinema corridor for some time, trying to come to terms with this most unexpected, yet powerful of films. The plot seems straight forward enough: in the state of Maharastra, a shepherd and his family are struggling to feed their sheep, so they are forced to keep moving in search of fodder for their herd.

This subject could have been tackled in any number of ways, but the rawness of the situation and uncompromising actions of the characters are depicted with such truth that there is obviously a greater force at work; the Director Bhaurao Karhade was in fact a farmer himself, and it’s his vision, knowledge and passion, that takes this film to a whole new level of cinematography.

The backdrops are stunning but that’s to be expected when a film is set in rural India. What’s more impressive is the way all the elements of filmmaking come together to capture farmer life so accurately; the secret of which lies in the pace. It is as if life is in slow motion, or at least that is how it feels for a city dweller like myself. Yet if you are a shepherd, life is slow-paced. It feels like hours pass as you accompany the family on their journey and live through their days, which mainly involving sitting down and looking out onto the horizon, or herding up the animals before sundown.

Amongst the family is a young man who is looking for love, and a sweet side story unravels about his excitement of finding a bride, and waiting their wedding date. Yet aside from this positive development, we are also shown the daily struggles the family face. These problems arise from the acquisition of land by the Indian forestry department, which means there is nowhere for them to feed their sheep; a battle the father has been fighting for years. 

Behind-the-camera, Director Bhaurao was facing his own obstacles during the filming process. He ran out of funds and sold some of his own farmland in order to complete the production. The film is largely inspired by observations he made of the shepherd community while he was growing up, such as families having to move permanently, children being unable to get an education because of their nomadic lifestyle and the stigma they faced because of their lifestyle. Although Bhaurao worked as a full-time farmer following his father’s death, he had greater ambitions to go to film school, which he eventually did, and he used his new skills to make this unique and original movie. 

It is the unexpected conclusion of the film, juxtaposed against the serenity of the first half, that leaves the biggest impact on the viewer, leading to the speechless ‘but did that really just happen’ thoughts in your head. Tension and restlessness builds up in the farming community over the course of the story, but it is so subtle that it’s often hard to notice, until the climax, which is an assault on all the senses; shocking and savage yet satisfying.

An important film that is creative, captures a culture unknown to many, and is fresh in its thinking, it is no surprise to hear that Khwada has already won numerous awards; no doubt this will continue long into its screening future.

Khwada (2015)
Director: Bhaurao Karhade
Language: Marathi

Khwada was screened at The London Indian Film Festival 2015

Momtaz Begum-Hossain

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