Nishant (1975)

A film that will anger the hell out of you as Shyam Benegal tackles gender and class oppression in a depressingly kyriarchal Indian town with brazen confidence. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dir. Shyam Benegal
1975 | India | Drama/Crime | 137 mins | 1.85:1 | Hindi
Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some mature themes

Cast: Shabana Azmi, Girish Karnad, Naseeruddin Shah, Anant Nag, Amrish Puri, Smita Patil, Mohan Agashe
Plot: A man whose wife is abducted by a region’s rulers seeks to have the men prosecuted for their crime, but no one will help him.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes); Won Best Feature Film in Hindi (National Film Awards)
Source: Shemaroo Entertainment

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Heavy – Kyriarchy, Gender, Oppression
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Shyam Benegal follows-up on his outstanding Berlinale entry, Ankur (1974), with Nishant (or ‘Night’s End’), which competed for the Cannes Palme d’Or. 

It is as remarkable a work as Ankur was, but the most striking difference for Nishant is how it expands the notion of individual suffering into the plight of the collective. 

A film that will anger the hell out of you, Nishant tackles gender and class oppression in a depressingly kyriarchal Indian town controlled by a cruel landlord and several of his younger ‘yes men’. 

Not only do they treat the lower-caste workers badly, their toxic masculinity is utterly disgusting to see, especially in today’s continuous fight for gender equality. 

When a new schoolteacher comes to the town with his wife and child, he realises the noxious reality of his environment only too late as the victimisation of an entire community comes to bite him on the personal front. 

Backed by a powerhouse cast that includes Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Anant Nag, Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri, and more, Nishant sees Benegal confronts these problematic issues that have plagued India for centuries with brazen confidence. 

It may not be an easy film to see, but it is essential viewing for us to better understand how societies (let alone smaller communities) that are dominated by corrupt, law-bending and brutish entities can never experience justice for the disenfranchised. 

The implications of kyriarchy are laid bare here in Nishant, which is not just a bold milestone of Indian Parallel Cinema of the 1970s, but an indictment of all that is dastardly about the injustice that has happened, and continues to happen today, in India. 

Grade: A


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