Ahalya: Of Morals, Feminism Or The Lack Of It All

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A dose of morality, feminism and the chills, Sujoy Ghosh’s Ahalya is just another tale of a man climbing on the back of his wife and rising to the pinnacle of success.

According to the Indian mythology, Ahalya, the most beautiful woman in the world, is Lord Brahma’s creation. The age old myth has it that she is the dazzling wife of the aged sage, Gautama Maharishi. Besotted with Ahalya, the very “naughty” Lord Indra seduces her in the guise of her husband, Gautama. However, as soon as the good old sage finds out about the extra-marital affair, he punishes Ahalya and turns her into a stone.

A 14-minute-short film, Sujoy Ghosh’s Ahalya has a coquettish stunner (Radhika Apte) as the protagonist, one who is a modern seductress. She is married to a 78-year-old artist named Goutam Sadhu (Soumitra Chatterjee), and is his “muse”. The story picks up pace when Indra Sen (Tota Roy Chowdhury), a police inspector, visits the household in order to investigate the curious case of a missing model.

The twist in the tale happens when the inspector gets seduced by Ahalya. Unlike the mythology, it is not Ahalya who is transformed into a stone, but it is somebody else. Many would call it feminism. Initially, I did, too. However, my viewpoint changed considerably after watching the film a few times over.

Sujoy has given the age old myth a feminist spin, yes, but only to a minor extent. The real hero of the film, to my mind, is the artist who claims to make the life-line figurines. These so-called dolls are nothing but trophies for Goutam, which are referred to being his “latest creations” throughout the movie. Though these figurines indicate towards Ahalya’s sexual prowess, they are still called her husband’s “art”. She may have been enjoying the sexual freedom, but in no way is she carving out a niche for herself in the film.

So, if you’re looking for a feminist perspective in this film, watch again. As for the morals, in Ahalya’s words, “now, don’t you start becoming naughty like others!”

 

Sangeeta Purkayastha

Image Source: The Viewspaper