This is a multi-award winning Marathi language film (2009) set in rural Maharashtra/Karnataka where exists the practice of compulsorily inducting handpicked women and men into a Devdasi-like cult dedicated to the service of the deity Yellamma. They must gather their living by begging for alms or performing at public rituals. The men are forced into transvestitism (several also “persuaded” into homosexuality) while the women are considered free-for-all. Into this milieu we see the induction of the lead characters Suli (Mukta Barve, who has a lovely smile) and Tayappa (Upendra Limaye).
The long-running narrative chronicles the various trials and humiliations they (and sundry supporting characters) face as members of the cult. There are no surprises here as such, and the film makes a predictable checklist of the social evils nurtured by this practice.
Rajiv Patil has clearly tried to avoid a brooding elitist “arthouse” treatment, opting instead to mount a colorful drama with several songs (of variable quality). The downside is that Jogwa, at nearly 2 hours, is sprawling and repetitive and often ham-handed, with every emotion highlighted by background music. On the other hand the talented actors appreciably reduce the discomfort: Upendra Limaye and Mukta Barve sink beautifully into their roles and their taboo-defying romance is credibly depicted. Kishore Kadam as the “converted” gay transvestite is also quite effective. On the visual front Jogwa has striking use of color and some expert framing of scenes (DOP Sanjay Jadhav) which also make the film an interesting watch.