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aka The Ritual 1977 144’ b&w Kannada d/sc Girish Kasaravalli pc Suvarnagiri Films st U.R. Ananthamurthy dial K.V. Subbanna c S. Ramchandra m B.V. Karanth lp Ajit Kumar, Meena Kuttappa, Ramaswamy Iyengar, Shanta, Jagannath, Suresh, Jagadish, Narayana Bhatt, M.D. Subba Rao, Gopala Krishna, S.M. Shetty, Ramakrishna

Set in the 20s in a rural orthodox Brahmin Karnataka village, Kasaravalli’s first feature tells the story of a child widow through the eyes of a young boy. The widowed Yamuna (Kuttappa) lives with her father Udupa (Iyengar), who runs a traditional scripture school for young Brahmins. The student Nani (Kumar), bullied by his colleagues, is protected by Yamuna. When she becomes pregnant after an affair with a teacher, Nani becomes a horrified witness to her attempts to induce an abortion and then to commit suicide. The climactic moments of the film show her achieve the abortion, helped by an Untouchable, to the sound and images of drunken tribals, the terror of Nani, the guilty schoolteacher leaving the village in the night, and the villagers looking for Yamuna and Nani. Udupa then imposes the ghatashraddha ritual on his daughter: breaking a pot (a metaphor for the womb) as an expulsion and humiliation ritual that leaves her isolated, clad in a white sari, banned from the village. Having thus made amends, the old Udupa ogles a 16-year- old girl hoping to start a new family. Although Kasaravalli acknowledges the influence of the Navya literary movement and Samskara (1970), this is a major cinematic achievement: the dark woods (where Yamuna expresses her sexual desires and tries to kill herself by sticking her hand into a snake’s nest) and the harrowing, torch-lit night pierced by cries of pain during the abortion while the villagers obsessively bang their drums, contain more human kindness and honesty than the glaring sunlight exposing the rejected Yamuna in her white sari, a desolate figure with shaven head sitting under a tree while her only friend, a small child, is dragged away from her. Kasaravalli’s film was anticipated in his student diploma featurette Avasesh (1975) where the little Brahmin boy first appears.