In Custody- Film Report Essay, Research Paper
I n C u s t o d y
I. Give a short summary of the film in which you tell:
- where and when the story takes place
- who the main characters are ? protagonists and antagonists
- how their lives are affected by the culture they are in
This is a tale about doltish college lecturer and intellectual who writes poetry in the dying language of Urdu, which no one will publish. He sets out to interview “India’s greatest living Urdu poet”, which quickly proves to be a disheartening experience. This movie means to be an allegory about the lack of respect for history, intellectaulism, and scholarship in modern India.
The story takes place in the capital city of India Dehli and also in the city of Bhopal where the great Urdu poet lives. The setting is of a more modernised India, in the nineties.
The main characters of this movie are a college lecturer who is fond of writing Urdu poetry. His interest in the Urdu language is so immense that for him his job as a college lecturer is merely a means to provide bread for his wife and son. Poetry and Urdu are his greatest passions. He is just fascinated by the great works of language and poetry by a poet named Shahjehanbadi, who is the other main character in this movie. He regards the poet as ?India’s greatest living Urdu poet?. Shahjehanbadi is his idol. The lecturer with the help of his friend, who runs a printing press sets out on an assignment to the city of this great poet to interview him, an interview which will his friend would publish. With some difficulties, he manages to get hold of equipment like a tape-recorder for his interview, the main purpose of this interview is to record the great poetry of Shahjehanbadi in his own voice.
This assignment of his, however proves to be quite disheartening for him, when he finds out the reality about the life of his idol, Shahjehanbadi. Shahjehabadi who has now grown old, has two wives (something that is acceptable in the Moslem religion). His life as a poet is now only a personal experience for him and some of his ?friends?. These ?friends? of his praise his poetry, taking advantage of the soft-heartedness of Shahjehanbaadi, find a means for a square meal, which the poet provides them as a host.
Our professor however has a different motive for the praises that he has for Shahjehanbaadi, he is a lover of Urdu poetry, not the meals that the poet would provide him.
The professor faces quite some difficulties just to get a means to record the great poet?s voice on a tape recorder (keep in mind, that tape recorders were expensive about 8-10 years ago, especially in an under-developed India) Another set of difficulties knocks on the professors door when he finally fixes a place for recording the poet?s voice. He faces a lot of humiliation in the form of harsh and rude comments from the younger wife of the poet. But with his perseverance, the professor manages to do what he had set out for. With all these difficulties, and also a sense of sadness underlying the professors? emotions towards the poet?s life, this story relates a not very uncommon scene of Indian culture.
II. As an anthropologist you are trying to understand this culture based on what you have seen in this film.
- What differences are there between your culture and the culture presented in the film?
I myself, have lived all my life in India, as an Indian. I don?t see any difference in my culture and the culture portrayed in the movie. However, it should be noted that over the years there have been some major changes in the area of womens? status and rights, in India. This movie characteristically portrays a male-dominated society in India. It is true that Indian culture exhibits this characteristic very prominently, but this movie uses a little exaggeration to keep the viewer involved. For example, in the scene where the first wife of the poet tells the lecturer that the second wife is the one who gave birth to a son, so she holds a higher position, I think the movie tends to deviate from reality, here a little bit. Equality of sexes is observed in India, at least in the cosmopolitan cities. Another aspect about the culture portrayed in this movie is bigamy. Bigamy is allowed by law, only for followers of Islam (moslems). But even Moslems, avoid bigamy, the pace of change in life, just doesn?t allow one to afford that luxury anymore, however it is practised in rural areas of India even today.
-What are the major values of this culture?
This movie portrays a culture through a Moslem family, the head of which is a well-known and talented Urdu poet, with two wives, and a son by the younger wife. Throughout the movie, none of the the two wives of the poet calls the poet by his name, they always use the respected form ?Aap? of the pronoun you- in the Urdu language. This shows that respect for the spouse is a strong value in this culture. Not only to spouse, but to elders, this can be seen in every scene where the professor is conversing with someone in the movie.
- What is the source of conflict in this film?
The source of conflict in this movie is the way the life of a successful and reknowned poet changes once he gets old and as his physical health deteriorates. It is evident through the fact that when Noor Shahjehanbadi was younger and physically more able, the treatment that he received from both his wives, was very good. But as he got old, he had to depend on his wife and servants even to take him from one place to another! This dependence made his younger wife a lot less respectful of him. She would openly shout and taunt him. This sort of humiliating treatment towards a person, just because of his old age, seemed to be really sad to me.
- How is the conflict resolved?
The conflict was never resolved as long as Noor Shahjehanbadi was alive, but once he died he was free from all the taunting and humiliation that he had to face. The agonising treatment that he suffered had come to an end with this death. His death freed him from, all dependence!
- Who has the most power or prestige in this culture? Why?
Males have the most power and prestige in this culture, because in this culture males are the bread-winners. The role of females is to function at home in order to regulate the working of the house-hold. Men have the first right to decisions in the families, as we see in the scene where the college lecturer informs his wife that they will not be going out for shopping that evening. It seems like, women have no say when it comes to making decisions. India truly on whole is a male-dominated society.