This is among the most outstanding films I watched recently. I caught a preview last week. It’s the true-to-life story of a young nun, Rani Maria, who worked among tribals in rural Madhya Pradesh. Even so, this film is not about religion -- don’t let its posters lead you.
For Shaison P Ouseph, its director, this is his first film, and what a powerful debut! Sister Rani Maria is played by Vincy Aloshious, a rising star from Malayalam cinema. The soft-spoken Dr Ouseph teaches film-making at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai. The film’s producer, Sandra Rana, is Dean at St Xavier’s.
For those who don’t know much about the way tribals are suppressed, tortured, even killed by landlords in northern India, this movie says it all. India has a reprehensible position as a ringleader of modern slavery. Successive governments have not done enough to eliminate this.
Focusing on a group of villages in Indore district, you witness the hell these debt-ridden tribal farming communities endure. In the mid-1990s, Rani Maria was posted in an outstation convent, joining a cheerful sisterhood of nuns from Kerala. So, this Hindi movie has some Malayalam dialogue as well, and English subtitles.
She took on the responsibility, by herself, to right injustices and soon many tribals were no longer dependent on a tyrannical zamindar. He made it his mission to eliminate Maria when his income took a hit. Seniors at the convent, too, found fault with the young nun for going beyond her call.
It’s also a saga of forgiveness, as you will see. Mahesh Aney's camera work doesn’t have a single bad shot. Sister Rani Maria, who died in 1995, has recently been beatified by the Vatican.
(The writer is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Indian edition of Reader's Digest)