Mrinal Sen's "Khandhar" is a beautifully structured film. There is a brevity and concentration in its cinematic handling and each movement of the camera seems to capture something relevant and graceful against an idyllic background, with just the right touch of mystery and sadness about it. Three young men go to a place called Telenapota where they encounter a young woman and her old and ailing mother living by themselves amidst the ruins of their ancestral home. The two women are waiting for the girl's lover to return and marry her. Their present encounter with the visitors leads to nothing except sorrow, which is dissipated within the all-encompassing beauty of thesurroundings. All of this is, in a sense, wxquisite cinema--yet in terms of its semnatic imagery, it only adds up to an idyllic falseness pertaining to the values of unrequitted love, a Devdas-like nostalgia at the loss of values of an earlier era.
What stands out is the pathetic yet dignified figure of Jamini, the girl who is stoically resigned to serving her mother, and her irresoluteness, which contrasts sharply with the quick, definitive and somewhat juvenile behaviour of the young men from the city. The text cursorily looks at the chasms between the two sexes in India. Jamini is committed to the older conservative values of an ancient and age-respecting society where the woman's worth can only be counted in terms of her photogenic potential--as a subject for the photographer ( Naseeruddin Shah) .
There is a sense of decadence is the film, the existence of a society in the throes of death. The ailing mother seems to symbolise this decline. And, yet she is hopefully waiting to be redeemed by a young man who might marry her daughter almost in fairy-tale fashion. The film captures the pathos of the female--dependent, immobilised and unable to attain a pausible individuality, beyond pitiful dignity.
Of course, this is pictute of an India that does live in quite a few sentimental pockets and supports a huge industry that churns out popular literature, besides films. Assuming that purpose of cinema is to deliver a bit of the truth, itcan be criticised as a form of debasement that can take one awat fro reality. The film nonotheless has tremendous potential, although it might have been able to offer a deeper insight into the mind of the girl amidst the ruins instead of treating her as a mobile and supple subject for cinematic footage.
Shaban has given one of the best performances of her life. Her dedication to the character is unmistakble. Geeta Sen ( Mrinal sen's wife is superb. It is unfortunate that we do not see her in regular courses. Naseeruddin Shah is superb. K.K Mahajan done majic with his camera. Mrinal Sen has used the quintessence of Premendra Mitra's story to augment it a lovely level.