Toronto: Probably the best Indian movie to premiere at the on-going Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), young Marathi director Jayant Digambar Somalkar’s debut feature film ‘A Match’ — Sthal in Marathi — is literally a slap in the face of Indian patriarchy.
In fact, this strongly feminist film ends with a real slap in the face of one of the potential grooms by the protagonist after her repeated rejections on the pretext of being too dark-skinned, not too tall, and not too rich to meet dowry demands.
It is also a rare film with a cast of no actors. All its actors are real-life characters facing the camera for the first time in their life.
And it was shot in the director’s own village Dongargaon in Maharashtra and in his family home on a shoe-string budget.
The film is the powerful story of young girl Savita (played by Nandini Chikte), who is on the verge of graduating from college and dreams of building her own future.
But the oppressive patriarchy comes in the way of dreams as she is forced to face humiliating but comical interviews from the families of the potential grooms. In fact, she is once forced to skip her exams to face the interview.
Though the film’s main focus is on the stifling patriarchy, it also highlights the pervasive hypocrisy in Indian society through one of Savita’s suitors, who also happens to be her teacher at college. Though he lectures students on women empowerment in his class, in real life he demands dowry from Savita’s father.
As Savita’s desperate father tries to borrow money for her dowry, this film also lays bare the crisis farmers face in India.
Comical moments during Savita’s interviews by the families of her potential grooms and a Whatsapp-triggered brawl in the village add some lighter moments to the otherwise poignant story.
‘A Match’, which is competing for the Toronto festival top honour People’s Choice Award, is a complete package from the debutant filmmaker.