Ramkhind (2001)

An ethnographic documentary on the Warli tribe in India, who are isolated from the modern world, as Amit Dutta captures their daily lives, rituals and myths with a keen observational eye.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,061

Dir. Amit Dutta
2001 | India | Documentary | 78 mins | 1.33:1 | Hindi
Not rated – likely to be PG

Plot: An intimate glimpse into the everyday life of the famously reclusive and creative Warli tribe
Awards: –
Source: University of Pune

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Ethnography, Culture, Way-of-life
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

The first feature from avant-garde filmmaker Amit Dutta, Ramkhind very much sees one of contemporary Indian cinema’s most unique filmmakers already experimenting with cinematic form as his work, commissioned by the University of Pune, and largely ethnographic in nature, captures the way of life of the Warli tribe in India. 

It may be shot at the turn of the millennium, but Ramkhind seems as if it could have been filmed a couple of centuries ago (though of course cinema did not exist then). 

But my point is that the members of the tribe exist outside of time—that what was recorded by Dutta’s camera is not marked by temporality as some ‘scenes’ shot could very well be an authentic representation of the past. 

One great example is the final long-take sequence of dance, singing and music, shot not with a fly-on-the-wall style (which could be said for most parts of the film), but an invigorating fly-buzzing-around approach as Dutta’s camera immerses us into the sensorial, at times hallucinatory, experience, including the inspired use of the ‘step-printing’ technique made famous by Wong Kar Wai’s early works. 

Rituals, myths and ghost stories are described, sometimes performed, as Dutta trains his keen, observational eye on various subjects, be it in natural daylight or the dead of night as lit by a solitary oil lamp. 

While Ramkhind feels like a very raw exercise as compared to, say, the stylised approach of Nainsukh (2010), it is required viewing for anyone interested to chart from the onset the artistic growth of this fascinating filmmaker. 

Grade: B+

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