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The first half hour of Riwayat is painfully tiresome and unintentionally comical. It has random shots that the director transferred almost identically from the script to the screen that must have read on paper like so: Man walks to open door, car goes up the hill, car still goes up the hill, woman opens door and walks in. Right. Let's move on.
Riwayat is essentially about Anita's fight against female foeticide, one of our country's ideological poisons. She is a lawyer and works for an NGO. Soon, she gets married into the Addams family. I mean a dysfunctional family (I have to entertain myself in some way, right?) It seems like she didn't know what she was getting into nor did her husband Raj (Khalid Siddique) ever tell her about how idiotic his father is. I think I heard the father say something like "Yeh humara aakhri beta hai" (It's kind of weird how open he wants to be about his reproductive history)
Anita visits the village of Gangapur, the next step in her battle. The father-in-law isn't too happy about his. Did she not tell you this before the wedding? He asks his son. Oh my god! She's not going on a honeymoon to Singapore but Gangapur!? Clearly this family has severe communication issues.
Anita has a rendezvous with the village doctor and informs him how newspapers in every language is reporting cases of female foeticide in Gangapur. He takes the paper says "Mujhe Urdu nahi aati". She says.. yes she actually says "Mujhe bhi nahi aati". My dear girl, why would you not take the Hindi or English paper and make it easier for yourself, him and us? But wait, she still does have a comeback. She says, and I quote: "You are too relaxed and casual, Dr. Gupta!!" and walks off. Dramatic music cues in.Her husband comes to pay her a surprise visit by literally surprising her. Why the director chose to edit it like a scene from a horror/ thriller is kind of a strange decision to make.While all this was happening, I was somewhere feeling terrible that I'm taking jabs at this movie since female foeticide is no laughing matter. But in my defense, till then the actual story with the female feticide had not butted in (and the film does improve later) (A wee bit). She uncovers one case and gets the culprit arrested.
Anita is played by Samapika Debnath who might act better if she wasn't given this weak script. The second act improves as the regressive issues in the family start to surface. This section of the story brings her fight to her own home. These scenes which are hopelessly melodramatic and straight out of a television soap work mostly because of the subject and partially, thanks to Achint Kaur who plays Deepika, her harassed sister-in-law.It is a grave problem that needs to be dealt with. A wiser guess would be that these scenes work since we had been watching a worse movie before. The fact that she defends the same person in court who she indicted is interesting. The fact that she doesn't entirely blame her father-in-law but the traditions and misinterpretations is something you wouldn't expect in this film. There is also one ghazal by Jagjit Singh (rest in peace), which lends a decent escape.
Alas, the film again goes bust as it ends badly without satisfyingly wrapping up the concerns raised before. The film suffers from the same problem every movie like this suffers from. It becomes a sermon. I always ask why it isn't better to actually go and work for a particular social issue instead of making a film about it. Films are primarily a storytelling medium. Yes, you could wish to fix them by giving out an honest message but do it well so that it doesn't become a rather lousy propaganda. You could make a 2-minute advertisement instead which would be more effective.