GHASHIRAM KOTWAL K. Hariharan, Mani Kaul, India 1977, 107 min
Schemes, assassinations and espionage in the old Indian empire on the eve of colonialization
GHASHIRAM KOTWAL is a stylized film version of a play chronicling the Peshwa regime in western India. The Peshwa Empire, based in Pune, was the only one of its extent in India under Brahmin rule. Placing an infant Madhav Rao on the throne as king, Nana Phadnavis takes charge as the Prime Minister. To enforce his powers, Nana appoints Ghashiram as a senior police official cum espionage agent. So it is in the heart of a feudal, decadent, yet romantic atmosphere that we witness intrigues, murders, and alliances while the British advance into Maratha territory. Through his espionage network, Nana discovers the subversive operations of the British; when Nana resists them he faces a total rout at Wadgaon (1779).
Ghashiram develops into a mirror image of Nana, and while Nana gets married for the sixth time to a child bride, Ghashiram unleashes a reign of terror against the intriguing Brahmins. One day a group of Brahmins from Andhra suffocate to death in a dungeon while confined under his orders. Unable to tolerate this tyranny, the Brahmins of Pune demand that Ghashiram be beheaded. Nana placates the imprisoned Ghashiram by offering him metaphysical solutions to life, but later sanctions his death sentence. The Peshwas hang on when all other Indian rulers have gone under. Finally they too are brought to heel and the British get complete control of India.
Awards and Festivals
- World Premiere: International Film Festival of India, Chennai, 01/1978
- International Premiere: Berlinale, Internationales Forum des Jungen Films, Berlin, 02/1978