The film takes place in rural Colonial India during the early 1940′s. A sleepy village has been shaken by the occasional invasion of the abusive subedar [local tax collector] and his army. The villagers are expected to turn a blind eye to the army’s pillaging and cater to the subedar’s every whim. Even the mukhi [village chief] cowers to the subedar’s authority. Unfortunately for the villagers, the subedar has an insatiable appetite for women and he is not above abusing his power to get what he wants. In this case the subedar’s eye has fallen on Sonbai, whose husband has gone away to work in the city. The strong-willed Sonbai refuses his advances and slaps him across the face, running for her life. She finds apparent safety in the masala karkhana, the mill where local women grind red chillies into powder. That is, until the men of the village decide that Sonbai should give herself to the subedar in order the save the village from his retaliation.
The film depicts a rural Indian village on the cusp of independence and change. Their struggles address the injustice of colonialism, Gandhism, the power of education, women’s rights and the community’s need for basic human decency. Beautifully shot in lush colors, with memorable characters and a delightful dance sequence. This is not typical Bollywood fair, more of a political drama portrayed in an operatic fairy tale fashion. Oh, and the greatest moustaches you will ever witness.
Michelle Melancon, Bindery Specialist (Baking With Medusa at Blogspot)