Maabhoomi (1979)

 ●  Telugu ● 2 hrs 38 mins

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Set during one of India’s main peasant risings, the Telangana insurrection between 1945 and 1951 in the pre-Independence state of Hyderabad, the Bengali director’s first feature tells the story of Chander’s best-known novel from the peasant’s point of view. A young peasant, Ramiah, rebels against the corrupt rule of the nizam, and when his girlfriend has to submit to the potentate’s sexual coercion, Ramiah leaves. He befriends a Marxist activist (the rising was CPI-inspired) and participates in the Independence struggle. When the peasants take over the village after Independence, their anger boils over and they perpetrate a massacre. In 1948 the Indian army marched into Hyderabad and suppressed the rising. Many of the ousted landlords returned to power by becoming Congress officials, so that the peasants had to face the same struggle all over again. The film is made in a documentary style inspired by Latin American political cinema but also uses Indian folk idioms such as the Burrakatha style (cf. the political education sequence with the union leader Maqbool). The film’s view of the rising is mostly an uncritical one, esp. in comparison with recent analyses by historians sympathetic to political groups currently working in Telangana.
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as Ramaiah
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