An almost “blasphemous film in the way it criticizes so many aspects of Indian society but also light, funny, and entertaining

As he proved with the excellent, multi-awarded “Widow Of Silence”, Praveen Morchhale He has an extraordinary way of finding humor in even the most difficult situations. He eloquently comments on situations and discrepancies in the system in dramatic fashion. But, it doesn’t become melodramatic. Or worse, poverty porn. This cinematic approach finds its apogee in his latest work, “Behind Veils” a satire that seems to touch every aspect of the current system in India. 

Ana, the US-educated, New Delhi resident daughter of Sumanghal, is returning to the village he grew to love, after her grandmother removed him years ago. She also wants to fulfill her grandfather’s last wish to build a village library. To that end, she has a lot of books. She meets her grandmother in the village. She is obsessed with social media, particularly Facebook. Bhaiyyaji, the local politician, doubles as a barber and masseur. The latter, however, is not exactly a virtuous leader as she soon finds out, since he has taken ahold of her father’s property and refuses to give it back, a tendency he seems to have repeated a number of times. He also resists her request to build the library, believing that if people are educated, they will throw him out. Instead he throws her to the clutches of bureaucracy, asking her to bring a NOC, a no objection certificate from every one of the town’s authorities, all of which are in his payroll, one way or another. So begins a kafkaesque mission, which brings her against the entire Indian system with tragicomical results, not to mention an electoral campaign. 

Morchhale takes a satirical approach at the beginning to show the dramatic events taking place throughout the movie. The film opens with the internet-obsessed grandmother. Her questions and general attitude are hilarious throughout. Next, we see the differences between the city-woman and the villager. These differences include language issues and the reason her father was rejected for marrying outside their religious beliefs. But Bhaiyyaji is the pivotal moment. He is an untrained, corrupt, greedy, and racist man who appears to be able to address all aspects of India’s political system, including how he actually uses it. 

Morchhale’s efforts to follow the law to donate a library for a village in need, as well as the absurdity of the NOC, allows her to comment on a further number of professionals and institutions, including the police and judicial, educators, contractors and the way they are all connected by the concept that is the king of the country: bribery (or cash if you prefer).

The story progresses, and a few more episodes add to the criticism, with hospitals, religion and customs getting their fair share. Morcchale saves the best for the last with Indian elections (including donkeys and women who look like bollywood actors and again bribes), offering as much laughter and food for thought. 

The whole path the protagonist follows, and essentially the whole narrative, reminds intently of Zhang Yimou’s “The Story of Qiu Ju” but Morchhale’s approach is much more comical and even happy-go-lucky for the most part, a tactic that is cemented in the almost Shakespearean ending. The ending comment is also interesting in its pragmatism, with the director seeming to state that one can only fight the system by being even unreasonably persistent, while also “winking” at the power of women, who might as well be the most appropriate in this case, to bring change. 

The intent colors of the cinematography fit the overall aesthetics of the movie, while a number of frames, such as the one where the family is eating inside the house all together or the one where the “bad guys” are sitting beneath a tree, are truly memorable. The editing is also a masterclass, moving in the same comical/deadpan manner, especially with the way that the scenes follow each other. 

The movie’s only problem is the excessive number of episodes. This could lead to the movie being longer than necessary. The entertainment provided by the movie would be enhanced by some music, but the ending makes up for it. 

The acting fits perfectly with the overall aesthetics. Ariana Sajnani Ana acts as the anchor for every performance, and it works well. They are however the ones who steal it. Seema Biswas As the grandmother Bhagwan Tiwari Ajay Chourey plays Bhaiyyaji and Ajay Chourey is the Barber. Their whole demeanor is hilarious on many levels. 

“Behind Veils” is an almost “blasphemous film in the way it criticizes so many aspects of Indian society and the whole system, but Morchhale also manages to keep it light, funny, and entertaining throughout its duration, in a testament to his prowess as both a director and a writer. 

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