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aka The Boon aka Sage from the Sea aka Manas Ka Maharshi 1977 137’[H]/136’[T] col Hindi/Telugu? d/co-sc Shyam Benegal pc Raviraj Int. st C.T. Khanolkar’s novel Kondura (1966) co-sc Arudra, Girish Karnad Satyadev Dubey lyr Vasant Dev[H], Arudra[T] c Govind Nihalani m Vanraj Bhatia lp Anant Nag, Vanisree, Smita Patil, Venu, Shekhar Chatterjee, Amrish Puri[H], Satyadev Dubey, Ravu Gopala Rao[T], A.R. Krishna[T]

Benegal’s only film in the language of the Northern AP region in which his early political dramas (Ankur, 1973; Nishant, 1975) are located. Continuing his interest in the politics of rural exploitation, this is a morality tale linking religious illusions with personal frustrations. Adapting a mystical Marathi novel, it tells of the Brahmin Parashuram (Nag) who meets the sage Konduraswamy (Puri) and receives a boon: in exchange for a vow of celibacy he receives a root able to terminate pregnancies. Parashuram’s wife (Vanisree) reluctantly goes along with her husband’s new convictions and soon he becomes known as a holy man. In his dreams, the ‘holy man’ covets the daughter-in-law of a rich scoundrel and, mistakenly assuming that the scoundrel impregnated her, Parashuram administers the abortive root to the woman with disastrous results. Disillusioned, Parashuram realises his asceticism was an act of naivety and he proceeds to rape his own wife who then commits suicide. The Telugu version ended with a voice-over instructing the audience to consider the implications of the story. The original novel, set in the culturally primitive Konkan, uses its central mythic narrative to create different states of perception so that the viewer is constantly asked to interrogate the protagonist’s experiences, leaving open the question of whether the frustrated and exploited Parashuram Tatya ever really saw what he says he saw. The film sidesteps this level of complexity and settles for a more standard political critique of feudalism.