Bengaluru, April05:A 1977 Kannada movie Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane, a horde of angry villagers pelt stones at a woman’s home because they find out that she asked for a cow to be slaughtered. The mob retreats only when she shoots in the air, and finally disperses after her husband reassures the villagers that he is willing to pay the price for his wife’s actions.
This scene resonates uncomfortably in the contemporary political climate, where the violent overreach of self-appointed cow protectors is resulting in deaths and is being systematically enabled by flawed legislation.
BV Karanth and Girish Karnad’s Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane (Son, you have become an orphan) explores the conflict between the religious importance of cows among Hindus, and their economic utility in a primarily agrarian rural India. The National Award winning film, based on a Kannada novel by SL Bairappa, was also made in Hindi as Godhuli.
Kalinga (Manu), the son of a recently deceased landlord, returns to his village after studying agriculture in the United States of America. Accompanied by his American wife Lydia, he attempts to push the village along on the path to progress. But he gets off on the wrong foot, upsetting his close friend and village priest Venkatramana (Naseeruddin Shah) when he uses water from the temple well to irrigate his farm.
Karnad later expressed regret for making a movie that could be construed as anti-cow slaughter, but the film itself never deifies or demonises any of its characters. It cuts to the heart of the development debate by enumerating the irreverence of an outsider who rampages on sacred ground in the quest for progress as well as the obstinacy of people unwilling to embrace change because they believe they are happy enough as they are.