Sunday, August 7, 2011

Osama - Movie Review

Osama is a 2003 Persian film shot in Afghanistan sometime after the fall of the Taliban rule. It also has the distinction of being the first film to be fully shot in Afghanistan after 1996 when the Taliban banned all films.

The movie is about a young girl of about thirteen, her mother and her grandmother who live in Afghanistan during the period when the Taliban impose their strict regulations on society. The young girl's father (and grandfather) have died in the wars against the Soviets and the civil war. Now only the three women live in their home. To make matters worse the girl and her mother lose their jobs in a local hospital that has closed down. The Taliban has banned all women from going out without a male companion. For the three women it means that they starve to death.

The grandmother cuts the young girl's hair and sends her out to work disguised as a boy. They find work in a tea shop owned by her father's friend who is kind enough to take her in even after knowing she is a girl disguised as a boy. But her effeminate ways give her away and the Taliban keep an eye on her. Everyday is dangerous for the young girl who has to now move in places full of men and behave like them. One day a mullah of the Taliban rounds her up on a soldier collection drive of young boys and she is put in a camp full of boys who are being trained in the recitation of Koran and in military ways. She has to eat, sleep and bathe with the boys who soon suspect that she is not a boy.

One boy who knows she is a girl, however protects her for as long as he can. He is the one who gives her the name 'Osama' when the other boys ask the girl her name. However she is caught one day, menstruating. She is sent along with several others who have sinned according to the Taliban to a local court. A woman is stoned alive, another shot, etc. The young girl's time comes and one wonders what terrible judgment is passed on her when an old mullah (who teaches the young boys in the camp how to handle wet dreams by taking cold water showers etc) hurries in and has a word with the judge. The girl is then taken away to be married to the old man who has a house filled with three wives already, all of them who hate him for destroying their lives. Osama is prepared for the consummation of her marriage with the old man who is getting ready for his new wife himself.

'Osama' shows the Taliban regime and its crimes against women and children in this simple story. Driven by their need to survive, the terror and helplessness that the three women undergo is real, and almost steps out of the screen. The tension heightens when the young girl has to face the world of men alone, again driven by her need to bring home food for her mother and grandmother. She has to hide all that is feminine, including her voice which could give her away and lead her to death. Finally one wonders if death would have been preferable to being married to the perverse old man. Not for the weak hearted, this film, though there is nothing explicit. The menace, the terror lurks each time she steps on the road and tries to walk home like a boy. In one scene, the young girl is almost home, bread in hand, walking a lonely street when she suddenly stops. There is a dog in the middle of the road, lying down and doing its own thing. How she swallows her feminine fear of dogs and goes past sends a shiver down your spine. 'Osama' shows women in all their sensitivity, vulnerability and strength and drives home the fact that women must be loved, respected and cared for, and any culture that does not, cannot lay any claim towards doing anything good for God or for man. One of those movies that will always haunt you, frame after frame, and leaves a big impact.

No comments: