In his third feature film Widow of Silence, Praveen Morchhale tells the story of a Muslim half-widow who finds herself in a crisis when she attempts to get her missing husband’s death certificate from the government in a conflict-ridden Kashmir. These half-widows and their children live an isolated social life and face harassment, sexual exploitation and humiliation. Remaining true to reality, the film expresses the women’s conditions in one corner of the world, away from the spotlight. To a varying degree, Widow of Silence moves forward with a languid pace while remaining intriguing with its visual style, narrative themes and the demeanour of the characters inhabiting the milieu.
Widow of Silence uses long takes and de-dramatization to create dead time, where narrative causality and progress are abandoned to facilitate contemplative viewing. Morchhale mutes dramatic intensity and foreground idleness for a more aesthetically rewarding cinematic experience. The stunning images amid the mundane events in this lyrical drama enable one to appreciate Widow of Silence in a reverent and meaningful way. The fascination lies in the way the film explicitly calls attention to the geographical realities, and how those realities are understood by the audience. This adds a further dimension to the philosophical inquiry: Morchhale examines not only the meaning of life, but also the phenomenological nature of experienced reality. The viewer only gets little scraps of information from time to time, as Widow of Silence doesn’t spoon-feed its audience, or arrange the subjects like pieces on a chessboard.
The silences express a deeper sense of absence, loss and vacuity. Widow of Silence’s characters communicate little because the core of human existence is on the verge of death. It’s the humanization of the unfamiliar that makes the characters feel so exceptionally real, and viewers will likely see parts of themselves on screen. Because of that, the barrier between the characters and the audience disappears. Still, the unnatural dialogue delivery from secondary characters is problematic and de-values the experience of watching a serious-minded film.
Dipankar Sarkar (@dipankarftii) is a graduate in film editing from the Film and Television Institute of India and currently based in Mumbai. As a freelancer, he frequently contributes to various Indian publications on cinema-related topics.