Move over Amitabh.
The Hindi film industry title of 'angry young man' no longer belongs to him.
In Daman, an angrier and older man takes over.
In fact, this man, Sanjay Saikia (Sayaji Shinde), a tea plantation owner in Assam, is angry for no reason at all.
The brunt of his anger is squarely borne by meek wife Durga (Raveena Tandon), a poor village belle. Being in a perpetually angry state, he mistreats and brutally rapes her. Since she's just helpless and NOT angry, she suffers silently.
For empathy, she has brother-in-law Sunil (Sanjay Suri), who is paternally protective and wrongfully lustful in turns.
Durga is determined that daughter Deepa (Raima Sen) doesn't meet the same fate as hers. But Saikia is equally resolute to get Deepa married off. So Durga eventually gets angry, too, and runs away with her 13-year-old daughter.
This makes Saikia angrier. And we are back to square one.
In between, Daman covers the critical but never talked about issues of marital rape, domestic violence and subjugation. There are liberal doses of sermons on women's liberation, the girl child, and the evils of society as well.
Director Kalpana Lajmi's intentions are noble, but their execution leaves much to be desired.
For starters, she has etched characters that are just not believable because they are so exaggerated. A husband who is lecherous and inanely cruel for no plausible reason, a loony father-in-law who talks to his dead wife, a daughter who goes from simple village girl to hep college babe and her irritatingly cheerful boyfriend (Shaan), an excessively charitable woman who adopts Durga and her daughter... NONE of them ring true.
The only aspect that rings true is the premise.
That women are physically and emotionally exploited and marriage isn't always the safety net one assumes it to be. But this foundation flounders in the absence of strong characters and a weak script.
There are only two reasons one could see the film. One: it deals with a theme that is rarely addressed in Indian cinema.
Two: Raveena Tandon, who won a National Award for her role in Daman. She conveys helplessness and desperation with dignity and grace. One only wishes she were given a more convincing backdrop to base her character on.
Of the cast, Sayaji Shinde spends all his screen time looking intensely fierce. But he would have been more frightening if we were to know why he is the way he is.
Sanjay Suri plays the silently yearning and spineless brother-in-law quite effectively though he struggles through scenes that require more than the lost puppy dog look.
Raima Sen is not very credible as the traumatised daughter and she is even less believable as the village girl turned college kid. And all one can say about Shaan is he should firmly stick to singing.
Bhupen Hazarika's music makes for pleasant listening. It blends in beautifully with the folksy photography captured in the hills of Assam.
With Daman, Lajmi has taken a step towards a topic that is rarely brought up though everyone knows it's there.
But she has miles to go before she puts it across the right way.
Meet Raveena Tandon in all her avataars
The Kalpana Lajmi Chat on Rediff.com
Calling Mr Woman!