Riwayat opens with a shocking statistic – 100 million girls are missing around the world. They’re killed at birth or even before they’re born. That’s dramatic enough for a disturbing movie to be made. Only, it must be made well.
This one shows the struggle of lawyer-plus-NGO worker Anita (Debnath, enthusiastic but saddled with few expressions and excessive dubbing) against the riwayat or custom in village Gangapur – and her own marital family – of murdering girl children, considered liabilities. Anita takes on cook Radha’s drunken husband Gangaram (Lakhia, mostly vague, forceful in one scene involving a baby), an unbothered village doctor (Gupta, convincing in his apathy), a callous police force, a sleazy sarpanch and her own control freak father-in-law (Dubey, notable as a regressive elder) whose insistence on male grandchildren wrecks his elder son Dipak (Ankola, picturesque, yet blank) and Dipika’s (Kaur) marriage.
After several abortions, the latter’s an alcoholic wreck, wearing eye-catching saris and spewing whiskey fumes at her husband. Anita’s own husband Raj (Siddique, nice looks, weak acting) is also becoming a wobbling wimp before Big Daddy – but a catastrophe changes everything. Meanwhile, Anita must defend Gangaram in court – while expecting her own girl child.
Here’s the trouble. Rewaiyat loses steam huffing and puffing between all these characters and sub-plots. If it stuck to one central location – Gangapur, all stunning blue-green foliage, dark, rainy nights, stifling poverty, frightening views on infanticide, with shocking shots of a bloodied baby – it would have far greater dramatic impact. Instead, the film careens about, accommodating Anita’s sasurji’s wisecracks – “Hum honeymoon ke liye Amarika gaye the – tum Gangapur?“, her assistant’s sad story recounted while driving a jeep called ‘NGO’, etc. And it sags, becoming loose over an unnecessary 40 minutes.
Dramatic music would’ve helped but it’s missing. So is acting with depth and taut direction. All of which is a pity. This film should have only highlighted missing girl children – not anything else MIA.
Anita fights female infanticide in village Gangapur – and her own marital family. Will she win?