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Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Maati Maay (A Grave-keeper's Tale) is based on a short story Baayen by the well-known writer Mahasweta Devi. It is the heart-rending tale of a young mother who is trapped between her instincts and needs, and the compulsions of her ancestral duty as dictated by the social system.
Chandi (Nandita Das) is a beautiful young woman from a lower caste, whose family has traditionally been in charge of a children's graveyard. When her father dies, there being no other male in the family, Chandi inherits the job and performs it with great pride as her sacred duty. But after she gives birth to her son Bhagirath, things start to change. Being a nursing mother, Chandi now begins to get deeply affected by children's deaths. Handling tiny corpses takes a toll on her body and mind. Getting more and more distressed while performing their funeral rites, she wishes she could be relieved of that duty. But then, who will protect the graves from wild animals...? Won't the ancestors be angered...? Is it not wrong to give up a sacred trust...?
Chandi's husband Narsu (Atul Kulkarni) fails to understand her turmoil. Her moral dilemmas, her growing anxieties are simply beyond him. The community forces her to continue with her work. And when she finally rebels, the villagers, steeped in ignorance and superstition, become extremely hostile and punish her in the harshest possible manner.
Twelve years later Narsu, hoping to justify his own actions, narrates Chandi's story to their now adolescent son.
If Chandi gets justice in the end, it is only through the love and courage of her son Bhagirath (Kshitij Gawade) who dares to defy the system.
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