These are musings on Govind Nihalani’s exceptionally well crafted adaptation of the Federico Garcia Lorca play THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA titled RUKMAVATI KI HAVELI(1991). Unfortunately, it’s a largely forgotten work, lost to our generation enroute a dusty high road to our more materially sophisticated times. But if sophistication of craft, storytelling, adaptation and performances embellish means of social repression this poignantly then RUKMAVATI KI HAVELI needs to be brought to the front and centre of our conversations.
In a mutable country reeling with braids of conservatism and parched sexual discourse, the film makes a powerful statement on the community of silence, honour, skewed gender roles and a fear of the other, here the other being the opposite sex, whose distance and inscrutable social lines have bundled us like chattels for life on the other side . Fear mongering on the very foundational tenet of desire is put most implosively at the center of the scenario. Warped in time honoured platitudes and intergenerational clashes, this film hit me like a hurricane even as its conversant quality is punctuated by silences of an imposing mansion and interior monologues of the mind captured in close ups and painterly mastery of Nihalani’s directorial / cinematographic brushstrokes. His triple duty here( as he’s also penned the screenplay) gives him the impetus to neutralize gender roles of a filmmaking ethos to marshal the best extraction of an all female ensemble cast. Spain was set alight in the fiery denunciations of Lorca’s cult drama (which has been faithfully transported to Rajasthan and characterisation ) and here it is an all too familiar beat we grasp instinctively as a nation of extremities. In today’s retrogressive social mores, it packs a punch, telling us that locations and eras cannot mask the essential constructions of our society and general human complexity. The more we burrow deeper, the more we elude the truth. The more similar we are. This adaptation proves that.
A more significant dissection of this worthy work will unfold in coming posts. Most importantly, we need to revive these treasures committed a little too flippantly to archives of time.
** the movie has been uploaded on YouTube in four parts as per its full runtime so watch it.