Pratyusha, directed by Jatla Venkataswamy Naidu, is an uncompromising art film with a sharp feminist focus - in many ways a more radical statement on the feminist struggle for dignity than Mani Kaul's portraits on the condition of the Indian woman (Uski Roti and Durvidha). Jatla's film echoes, from the feminist point of view, the political prospects that we are familiar with in films by Mrinal Sen. Like some other recent art films by young directors - particularly by Ghattshradha and by Grahama - Pratyusha shocks us simply by exposing and documenting a strange and incomprehensible social custom in the country.
The central theme of the film is derived from the Jogu custom that prevailed in the Telangana region before Independence. The tradition created prostitutes in the villages without giving the desecrated women an opportunity to carve out an independent identity of their own. It simply became one more extension of the oppressive social system for lower castes living in the Telangana. Jatla and his colleagues, most of who are from the Film Institute and who make their feature film debut with him in Pratyusha, surveyed as many as 150 villages and interviewed nearly 100 Jogu women who lived an existence that was no better than a slave's.
Pratyusha assumes considerable power - if not as a film, at least as a story told in celluloid - by creating the character of Posani, a young Jogu woman who refuses to dedicate her little daughter to the Jogu goddess, though the Sigam - the local version of the village witch-doctor - says that the goddess demands that Posani's daughter be initiated into the Jogu cult. Posani's rebellion breathes life into an otherwise over-stylised film. She fights the Panchayat, the feudal lord and finally life itself, but she refuses to permit her daughter's slavery to the cult of the Jogu.
In a dramatic climax, after Posani has been boycotted by the entire village for
her defiance, she kills her eight year old girl rather than submit. It is a twist
that breathes life into a cinematically dull film, and converts it into an astounding
documentary on lower caste village women.
Direction: Jatla Venkataswamy Naidu
Cast: Kadambini, Godavari, Baby Tulasi, etc.