indian cinema heritage foundation

Ankur (1974)

  • Release Date1974
  • GenreDrama
  • FormatColor
  • LanguageHindi
  • Run Time125 mins
  • Length3742.34 metres
  • Number of Reels14
  • Gauge35mm
  • Censor RatingU
  • Censor Certificate Number3362
  • Certificate Date22/08/1984 (Re-certification)

Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi) lives in a village with her husband Kishtayya (Sadhu Meher), a deaf-mute alcoholic potter who communicates using gestures. The couple is poor and belongs to the lowly Dalit caste. Lakshmi attends a village festival and prays faithfully to the Goddess, stating that her only desire in life is to have a child.

Surya (Anant Nag), the son of the village landlord, had just finished his studies in the nearby city of Hyderabad and arrives back home. Surya's father (Khader Ali Beg) has a mistress named Kaushalya with whom he has an illegitimate son named Pratap. Surya's father claims to have given Kaushalya "the best land in the village", a gift which serves as both a token of his affection and also keeps Kaushalya quiet and satisfied. Surya is forced by his father into a child marriage with the under aged Saru (Priya Tendulkar), and begins to feel extremely sexually frustrated due to the fact that they cannot have sex until Saru reaches puberty.

Surya reluctantly takes over the administrative responsibilities of his share of land in the village. Alone, he moves into a different, older house, and Lakshmi and Kishtayya are sent as his servants. Not long after his arrival, he begins to exert his authority by introducing a number of different laws and measures, many of which are controversial among the village people. Almost immediately, Surya starts to form an attraction towards Lakshmi, and gives her the task of cooking his meals and serving him tea. This does not sit well with the village priest, a man who traditionally delivers food to the landowner, though at a higher price than Lakshmi asks.

Surya also hires Kishtayya to ride his bullock cart and run his errands. The following day, he has Kishtayya collect fertilizer from the landlord's house. Surya then uses Kishtayya's absence to flirt with Lakshmi, but she fails to reciprocate. In the meantime, the villagers have begun to gossip, and many (most notably the overseer, Police Officer Patel Sheikh Chand) believe that Surya has already slept with Lakshmi, and will act in the same way that his father did - try to conceal the scandal by giving his mistress a vast plot of land.

Kishtayya is caught stealing toddy, after which he is publicly humiliated, and he decides to leave the village due to the embarrassment. In his absence, Surya and Lakshmi sleep together. Sometime later, Saru arrives at the village, in order to live with her husband. Saru does not approve of Lakshmi's presence, partly because Lakshmi is a Dalit and partly because Saru has heard the villagers' rumours. The next morning, Lakshmi has morning sickness, and Saru fires her, claiming that she is too sick to work.

Many days go by, and eventually Kishtayya returns, having cured himself of his alcoholism and made some money. Lakshmi is overwhelmed with a feeling of guilt, because she believes that she has betrayed her husband. On discovering Lakshmi's pregnancy, he salutes the village goddess at her temple, acknowledging that his wife's wish has been granted. He then decides to return to work and hopefully ride the bullock cart once again for Surya. Surya sees Kishtayya and mistakenly believes that Kishtayya is seeking revenge from him due to his infidelity with Lakshmi.

Surya orders three men to grab hold of Kishtayya and then proceeds to whip him with a rope used for lynching. The commotion attracts others, including Sheikh Chand and Pratap, to the scene, and Lakshmi rushes to defend her husband. She angrily curses Surya, then slowly returns home with Kishtayya. In the final scene, after the others have left, a young child throws a stone at Surya's glass window and runs away.


Synopsis credit: