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Face of the Faceless


“When you choose to fight for truth and justice, you will have to face serious threats.” Sister Rani Maria, the protagonist of the movie, is counselled by her mother in a letter. Face of the Faceless is a movie that shows how serious those threats are.

This movie is a biopic. It shows us the life of a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to serve some Adivasis of Madhya Pradesh [MP] and ended up as a martyr. If it were not a real story, this movie would have been an absolute flop. Since it is the real story of not only a nun but also the impoverished and terribly exploited Adivasis in a particular village of MP, it keeps you engrossed.

It is a sad movie, right from the beginning to the end. It is a story of the good versus evil, the powerless versus the powerful, the heroic versus the villainous, the divine versus the diabolic. Having said that, I must hasten to add one conspicuous fact: the movie does not ever present Christianity or its religious practices as the only right way(s) of doing things. The protagonist is a Catholic missionary nun. But she is not the kind that spends too much time before the crucifix. On the contrary, she is there with the poor and oppressed people of the village. She even digs a well along with them. Her habit-skirt is soiled with real mud.

Much more striking is the scene in which a new nun comes to the convent and makes delicious chicken curry but is told that it is a day of abstinence. But the nun is ravenously hungry and she needs food. Sister Rani Maria, who is the Mother [authority] of the convent, smiles her assent to breaking the ritual of abstinence for a day. Humanity matters far more than rules and rituals.

Sister Rani Maria does derive her spiritual sustenance from prayers. But she knows, like Rabindranath Tagore, that her god is “there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path-maker is breaking stones.” This nun’s god’s garment is covered with dust.

Here is a nun who has internalised the teachings of Jesus in all its essence. Religion is not some prayers and rituals. It is service to humanity. It is love for other creatures. It is truth and justice. Sister Rani Maria puts that religion into practice. Even the objections from her superior [the provincial] do not deter her. Her soul is on fire with love. Nothing can douse that fire.

So much goodness does not belong to the human world, however. The human world is not driven by love, goodness, truth, and so on. Such virtues belong to the holy books. The real world is driven by people like Amar Singh in the movie who is a typical exploitative landlord, the kind you will find almost all over India. Amar Singh finds that Sister Rani Maria is becoming too much of an inconvenience for him. The people on whose blood and sweat he was fattening himself are now refusing to kowtow to him and his henchmen. He finds an easy solution: eliminate the nun.

The movie ends with the transformation of the nun’s murderer. I remember the Malayalam newspapers reporting the arrival of this killer in Kerala to apologise to the nun’s family members for the gruesome crime he had committed. The movie is true to facts.

The movie is good to watch if you want to know the life story of Sister Rani Maria and about the exploitations of the Adivasis and such people in many parts of India. It will even help you understand why the Christian missionaries find easy acceptance among these oppressed people: they give them a “face,” an identity. These people who are treated as worse than animals [even today many people in North India are valued far less than cattle] gain respectability from what the missionaries do. A very simple fact is that most religious conversions in India can be prevented if the low caste people are given due respect in their own religion. But that doesn’t happen even today in spite of all the ‘spirituality’ that the current dispensation has brought to politics.  

Actress Vincy Aloshious has done a remarkable job in the role of Sister Rani Maria. Sonali Sharmisstha’s part as an Adivasi woman named Kerly is also outstandingly played. These two together make the movie an art which otherwise would be nothing more than a hagiographic biopic.

What could have made the movie an outstanding work of art would be to look at the entire sequence from the perspective of the nun’s killer. What prompted Samandar Singh to kill Sister Rani Maria so brutally? What transformed him later? I hope Dr Shaison P Ouseph, the director of this movie, will make another film on that.

PS. Why did this director make this movie? Read this Hindu article to find out.

 

Comments

  1. Hari OM
    Oh this film sounds wonderful... I have been searching to try and see if it will be available here (even online/streaming) but cannot reach anything more than the trailer; which draws one in even more. I shall keep looking though. It is so important that true acts of 'sainthood' which so often go unmarked are recognised and recorded. YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope the movie will be made available online soon. Right now it's running almost houseful in Kerala's theatres.

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  2. Sounds like it was a good movie.

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  3. Hearty thanks for familiarizing your readers with this movie which appears to be a very good one as one goes by your narration and assessment. Such biopics must be made essentially and frequently to act as eye-openers for those falling prey to the activities of the propaganda machinery in our country.

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    Replies
    1. This movie ran full house in Kerala for almost a month. And there was pin drop silence when I was watching it. People accepted it wholeheartedly.

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