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Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women
Matrubhoomi poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Manish Jha
Produced by Patrick Sobelman, Punkej Kharbanda
Written by Manish Jha
Starring Tulip Joshi, Sudhir Pandey, Piyush Mishra, Sushant Singh, Aditya Srivastava
Music by Salim Merchant, Sulaiman Merchant
Cinematography Venu Gopal
Edited by Ashmith Kunder, Shirish Kunder
Release date
  • 17 December 2003 (2003-12-17)
Running time
93 minutes
Country India
Language Hindi

Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women (Hindi: मातृभूमि, translation: Motherland) is a 2003 Indian film written and directed by Manish Jha. The film examines the impact of female foeticide and female infanticide on the gender balance and consequently the stability and attitudes of society. Its storyline bears some resemblance to real-life instances of gender imbalance and economics resulting in fraternal polyandry and bride buying in some parts of India.[1] It depicts a future dystopia in an Indian village populated exclusively by males due to female infanticide over the years.[2]

Matrubhoomi received widespread critical acclaim[3] and was shown at festivals through 2003, including the 2003 Venice Film Festival, where it was presented in the Critic's Week (Parallel Sections) and later awarded the FIPRESCI Award "For it's [sic] important theme on women's issues and female infanticide handled with sensitivity by a first-time director".[4][5]


The story begins in a rural village in Bihar,[6] with the delivery of a baby girl to a village couple. Her disappointed father, who was hoping for a boy, drowns her in vat of milk in a public ceremony. Many years later somewhere around 2050 A.D.,[6] this unchecked trend leads to the village being populated solely by males. The now uncouth and aggressive young men of the village are desperate for wives and release their frustration through group screenings of imported pornographic films, cross-dressed dance performances, and even bestiality. They are shown to be willing to go to the lengths of human trafficking and courtship-driven emigration to procure spouses for themselves.

The wealthy father Ramcharan (Sudhir Pandey) of five boys finds out about a single young woman, named Kalki ( Tulip Joshi ), living some distance from the village and buys her from her father. She is then married to all the five sons. Each night of the week, she is forced to sleep with one of the sons, and even the father gets his weekly night with her. Of all the men in the boorish lot, only the youngest son Sooraj (Sushant Singh) treats her with respect and tenderness.

When the youngest son is killed by his jealous brothers, Kalki asks her father's help for escape. Blinded by the money given to him as dowry, he turns her down. One of the sympathetic domestic servant boys of house helps her to escape but attempt goes lethally awry. The servant boy is brutally murdered while Kalki gets captured by the villagers. The villagers chain her to a post in a cow shed as she becomes a pawn of revenge in an inter-community conflict. The lower caste community of village hold her responsible for the death of the servant-boy, decide to avenge the murder by gang rapeing her mercilessly night after night. Kalki is then sent back to her husbands.

Kalki becomes pregnant and everybody rejoices. A new servant boy is appointed for her care. As the news spreads, every man in the village claims for the paternity of unborn child which causes violence to break out in the village. The men kill each other off over rights to Kalki and her child. In the meanwhile Kalki goes into labour. The film ends on a violent but hopeful note, as she bears a baby girl.[2][7]

Development and production[edit]

Director Manish Jha's debut short film, A Very Very Silent Film (2001), had previously won the Jury Prize for the Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002.[8] He got the idea of Matrubhoomi upon reading, in a news magazine, about a village in Gujarat without women. Subsequently, while surfing the web, he read an article mentioning the fact that over the years, millions of girl children had fallen victims to gender discrimination in India. The film's French producer Patrick Sobelman asked Jha to produce a script outline on the subject, and he put out a two-page synopsis. Within a week he wrote a 200-page script, which he cut back to 70 pages. The project received a green light when its Indian producer Pankej Kharabanda came on board.[9]

Having grown up in Bihar, he said he was aware of the practice of female infanticide and wanted to write a script about a future village if the practise continued. As women became extinct, the film allowed him to bring to light issues like polyandry, bride buying and rape.[10]

Matrubhoomi's lead actress Tulip Joshi had refused the film after the first reading, but eventually decided to take it up. As she added, "But I'm glad I took it up finally, even though there was a point when I felt disgusted."[6]

The film was shot on a tight budget of Rs. 2 crore, in Renai, a remote village in Harda district of Madhya Pradesh in 29 days.[9][10] The cast included actors from Delhi theatre circuit, Sushant Singh, Aditya Shrivastav, Piyush Mishra and Deepak Bandhu.


As per director, Manish Jha, "I wanted to examine the emotional and psychological impact of a society without women," ... "It is a very extreme situation ... a whole nation without women."[7]

The central character Kalki being married to five brothers is analogous to Queen Draupadi being married to the Pandava brothers in Mahabharata. Kalki references to the forecast of Vishnu's tenth incarnation, Kalki, who would end the Kaliyuga.[6]


After running through the festival circuit, including the 2003 Venice Film Festival, 2003 Toronto International Film Festival, Matrubhoomi was commercially released two years later on 8 July 2005, with 150 prints. It was dubbed into six languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Bengali, and French, on a budget of Rs. 3 crore, to reach a wider audience.[7][11][12]




External links[edit]