ⓘ India: Matri Bhumi

                                     

ⓘ India: Matri Bhumi

India: Matri Bhumi is a 1959 Italian documentary film-fiction hybrid film directed by Roberto Rossellini. The film combines the Neorealist style Rossellini helped develop in his native Italy with poetic voice-over narration. One of the writers for the screenplay was Iranian diplomat Fereydoun Hoveyda. It was entered into the 1st Moscow International Film Festival.

                                     

1. Summary

In its opening titles, the film declares that its actors are all non-professional performers cast from the locations being depicted. Over scenes of modern Bombay, voice-over narration remarks on the thousands of bustling people and praises the Indian people for their racial and religious tolerance before moving into more rural parts of the country, which it calls the real India.

Here, the film praises Indians connection with nature over scenes of men using elephants to clear sections of forest. The elephants are bathed and fed, while the human workers are entertained by a traditional puppet show.

We are introduced to young workman Devi, a Hindu refugee from East Bengal, who becomes the films narrator. He courts a local woman and is wed to her in a traditional ceremony. When Devis wife becomes pregnant, he sends her to live with her mother as Devi doesnt have time to tend to her and also work.

The film switches to the foothills of the Himalayas and follows several rivers downstream, referring to both the rivers source of life-giving water and their spiritual connection with the people. Indias history is shown in ancient temples that are slowly eroding into he rivers waters. The narration references ancient Indian holy books as the film shows the construction of the giant Hirakud Dam, which creates a huge artificial lake.

Devi has taken a job as a dam builder, and his wife has given birth. Devis narration expressed the pride he has for being part of the dams construction, lamenting the 175 deaths amongst the workers to save the lives of untold people who wouldve been lost to flooding. Finding a tree stump that will soon be swallowed by the forming lake, Devi writes on it about his journey and feelings. Devi and his wife quarrel, and they leave their home beside the dam, traveling west through rice farms, ancient Muslim forts, and jungles.

Life in the jungle is explored next with a new narrator, an 80-year-old man who has lived in his village his entire life. His narration explores life with his wife and grown sons who live nearby, their daily work routines, their religious rituals, and the uneasy relationship the old man has with the local tiger. When iron-mining surveyors come to the village, they disrupt the local people and wildlife. Lacking prey, the tiger injures itself and becomes a man-eater. The old man goes to help the tiger before the company-led hunting party can attack it.

The narrator discusses heatwaves in India, where the wildlife escapes to the rivers to cool themselves in the waters. The narrator tells the story of an old man traveling to a city festival with his monkey Ramu. The heat causes the old man to pass out with Ramu still chained to him as vultures circle them. Ramu is able to free herself from her owner as the vulture swoop in. Ramu makes her way to the city festival, where she falls back on her training, dancing for crowds and collecting coins. She tries to rejoin a group of wild monkeys, who reject her. Finally, she is adopted by a new human owner, who puts her in an acrobatic show.

The film ends as it begins, with narration over imagery of the big modern city, with crowds of thousands of people.