ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Godmother': Contesting Communal Politics in Drought Land

'Godmother' - the film reflects the growing politicisation of the Mer community in Saurashtra, against the backdrop of increasing community loyalties and communal divisions in the region. The story of the trials and struggles of Rambhi, who rises from poverty to an underworld don, is also the story of gender oppression that inevitably follows from such narrow loyalties. What is relegated to the background and what Rambhi accomplishes is a re-focus on real issues that matter - land and water.

Vinay Shukla’s film ‘Godmother’ offers a remarkable insight into the increasing criminalisation and communalisation of politics that the past decade has witnessed, especially in Gujarat, the state that has now become a testing ground for the Hindutva forces to implement their no longer hidden agenda unabashedly. The film unfolds the process of forging savage caste identities along religion and community lines, the gradual drifting away of communities from the agrarian economy and their emergence as the leading forces of the urban underworld, and their growing alliance with the dominant political groups of the region. The chief concern of the film, however, is to suggest certain possibilities wherein criminal and communal political forces can be combated. At its centre is a woman who enters the realm of underworld crime and greed and who, as she struggles for dominance, engages in a field of contention and conflict, not only at the political level, but also at the material level where it affects the conditions of the lives of women and other communities. The film closes with an important statement on an alternative conception of community that is secular and democratic, based on the radical equality of the people.

The film, located in the district of Porbundar in Gujarat, focuses on the Mers, a community with a long and varied history in the region, and draws on the lives of Sarman Munja Jadeja, an influential underworld leader and his wife Santokben Jadeja, who entered the criminal world when her husband was murdered, and eventually rose to become a very powerful woman in the region. It uses their lives as a backdrop and transforms the material of their lives qualitatively in order to arrive at definite political and ideological conclusions. However, it provides an excellent illustration of how the shifting economy of the region and the social history of its people have facilitated the emergence of communal identities and their insertion into dominant political processes.

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