Film Review: Kadvi Hawa
A blind man in his twilight years uses a long stick and his instinct to navigate rocky, arid terrain. Gingerly but determinedly, he is headed somewhere. The camera is following him until he reaches a bus stop. He is so well-adjusted to his impairment that those around him often do not realise this handicap, and if they do, they don’t display any sympathy. We’re taken from the stark landscape of drought-affected Mahua in Rajasthan to a small bank in Dholpur, where the old farmer, Hedu (Sanjay Mishra), encounters a bank loan recovery agent, Gunu Baba (Ranvir Shorey). Writer-director Nila Madhab Panda’s lyrical drama follows these two principal characters and through their desperate struggle to save their families, he paints a bleak picture of the devastating impact of climate change.
Like many from his village, Hedu’s family is also crippled by mounting debt and the burden of bank loans. Poor monsoons and inadequate agricultural revenue has pushed some of the farmers plagued by debt to commit suicide. The old man wants to do whatever he can to protect his son and grandchildren.
Hedu believes in the wind. “The wind brings the cloud. It brings the seasons,” he says. He believes that in their district four seasons have been reduced to two—summer and winter—because the wind has “got an illness”. Gunu Baba is from Odisha. “The wind has been very kind to you,” says the older man. “A bit too kind,” Gunu Baba replies wistfully, recalling the deadly impact of frequent cyclones that ravage the coastal state. One craves rain, the other fears it.
Panda’s story has the tones of a Shakespearean tragedy. The villagers refer to the loan recovery agent as the “god of death” because his presence in a district is usually the precursor to farmer suicides. But both the men are driven by the same need—to save their respective families. Thus, the old man strikes an uneasy, Faustian bargain with the agent, the consequences of which are far-reaching.
Shorey does a fine job as the ruthless agent with a desperate motive. Mishra, usually seen playing the over-the-top comic in popular cinema, captures the fatigue of an old man. He is remarkable as he conveys fear, hope and remorse. Bhupesh Singh plays Hedu’s resentful son, while Tillotama Shome brings a quiet compliance to her role of wife and daughter-in-law.
Following Kaun Kitney Paani Main, a satire on the water crisis, Panda now explores climate change. He captures the dusty, dry, hopeless world down to the finest detail. You can almost feel the heat from the sand and feel the relief offered by the shade of a lone tree. Panda does not preach or offer solutions. Juxtaposing two characters, two different geographies, communities and lives affected by changing winds and global warming, he simply asks us to face a bitter truth before its impact is irreversible.