I watched a few films of Shyam Benegal recently viz., Ankur, Bhumika, Trikaal, Mandi and Nishant. 'Nishant' is the most intense film in this selection. The film has a strong cast comprising Amrish Puri, Girish Karnad, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Sadhu Meher, Mohan Agashe, Anant Nag and others.
This fictional story based in 1945 in pre-Independence India in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, shows an uprising against the exploitative feudals. A school teacher (Girish Karnad) arrives in a village with his beautiful wife (Shabana Azmi). Soon she gets abducted by the sons (Mohan Agashe and Anant Nag) of the feudal landlord (Amrish Puri). When the school teacher's attempts prove abortive even after running from pillar to post to free his wife from her captors, he tries to mobilize the villagers to revolt against the tyrannical Zamindar with the help of the village priest.
I couldn't comprehend the ending in its totality, especially the character of Shabana Azmi who is shown fleeing with the youngest son of the Zamindar (Naseeruddin Shah), who has a soft corner for her, when the villagers attacked the family of the landlord. Did she also develop a longing for Naseeruddin Shah? Benegal keeps it open-ended, and this I found to be disappointing. Otherwise, the film was riveting and powerful, and contained some memorable dramatic sequences, performed ably by Girish Karnad and Shabana Azmi and the rest of the cast. The cinematography is excellent.
Rating: 3.8 out of 5