Shakti Samanta's KATI PATANG, Yash Chopra's DAAG, Ramesh Sippy's SHOLAY, Raj Kapoor's PREM ROG and Rituparno Ghosh's CHOKHER BALI... a number of film-makers have depicted the plight of widows in their films.
SHWET - WHITE RAINBOW, written-directed by Dharan Mandrayar, is an issue-based film that attempts to expose the ill-treatment meted out to widows. Although the story is interesting and the intentions genuinely noble, the execution of the subject lacks that hammer-strong impact so vital for a film of this genre. In fact, the film looks more like a documentary that's aimed at international festivals than an attempt to make a statement.
SHWET - WHITE RAINBOW is the story of four women and their journey to overcome the societal stigma and grim reality of widowhood. Abandoned by their families and impoverished by a system that fails to recognize them, they resolve to transform their lives, and in doing so, the lives of Vrindavan's widows.
The story begins with a tragedy: The film's protagonist, Priya [Sonali Kulkarni], loses her husband [in an accident] and also her baby [due to the shock]. Although her life is one of privilege and prestige, Priya's emotional and tragic catharsis compels her to make a pilgrimage to Vrindavan. Alone and desperate for solace, she befriends three women, all widows.
The elder, Roop [Amardeep Jha], has been rejected by her own children and forced to make her way on the streets. Mala [Shameem Shaikh] has been disfigured by her mother-in-law. And young Deepti [Amruta Subhash], widowed at age 15, has been forced into prostitution.
Together, this disparate group challenges the myths and traditions that surround not only the treatment of widows in Indian society, but the widows' own resignation to their fate. And, in the process, their own transformation takes hold.
SHWET - WHITE RAINBOW makes an attempt to enlighten the viewer about the plight of widows in India, but the path the story undertakes makes it look like a showreel made by a government organization. Also, the goings-on get too theatrical at times, like Sonali Kulkarni flaring up at the pension office. Even the discussion for a TV show is preachy, looking more like a bhashan. There's a message in the end, but even that does not come across forcefully.
What further goes against the film is that the multiple stories have been witnessed time and again. Moreover, the narrative moves at a lethargic pace all through, with boredom seeping in after a decent start.
Dharan Mandrayar's direction as well as his writing is too mediocre. Dialogues are well penned. However, the generous dose of English in some sequences will curtail its reach. Cinematography [B. Kannan] is functional.
The four ladies give their best to the enterprise. Sonali Kulkarni may not be in complete form, but she makes a sincere effort. Amardeep Jha is efficient yet again, after NAINA. Amruta Subhash and Shameem Shaikh are able. Virendra Saxena is first-rate. The film has a number of actors [the doctor, the TV host, the child artiste], all non-actors with an angrezi accent.
On the whole, SHWET - WHITE RAINBOW is a poor fare. At the box-office, it's a loser all the way.