Coming from a poor and destitute family, Urvashi is encouraged by her mother, Shanta (Sualbha Deshpande) to be on more than friendly terms with a much older male, Keshav Dalvi (Amol Palekar... See full summary »

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(inspired by the book "Sangtye Aika") (as the late Hansa Wadkar), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Anant Nag ...
Rajan
...
Sunil Verma
...
Vinayak Kale
Amol Palekar ...
Keshav Dalvi
...
Film producer
Sulabha Deshpande ...
Shanta
Baby Ruksana
B.V. Karanth
Dina Pathak ...
Mrs. Kale
Mohan Agashe
Kusum Deshpande
Rekha Sabnis
Baby Bitto
Savha Bajaj
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Storyline

Coming from a poor and destitute family, Urvashi is encouraged by her mother, Shanta (Sualbha Deshpande) to be on more than friendly terms with a much older male, Keshav Dalvi (Amol Palekar). Keshav takes a liking to young Urvashi, and encourages her to explore her talents in films, which she does, and does gain popularity, starting as a singer, than accomplishing herself as an actress/singer. She decides to marry Keshav, only to be discouraged by her own mother, but she is strong-willed, and does marry him. She has a baby girl after the marriage, but feels stifled and oppressed with Keshav, and has affairs with her co-star Rajan (Anant Nag), a film producer, Sunil Verma (Naseeruddin Shah), but ends up dissatisfied. Then she meets wealthy Vinayak Kale (Amrish Puri), and decides to settle down with him, little knowing that he is already married to another woman, and also has a son. By the time she finds out it is too late, she has already been accepted in his household, and any woman, ... Written by rAjOo (gunwanti@hotmail.com)

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Drama

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Release Date:

11 November 1977 (India)  »

Also Known As:

The Role  »

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1.37 : 1
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Trivia

Based on the life of well-known Marathi Stage and screen actress of the 1940s, 'Hansa Wadkar'. See more »

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Referenced in Jhaptal See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the great melodramas.
22 March 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

For years I had been lead to believe that the Indian cinema basically consisted of the florid excesses of Bollywood and the restrained humanism of Satyajit Ray. No-one told me that it could be as marvellous as this, combining the vibrant, visual energy of Bollywood, the depth of character of Ray, with a narrative complexity, formal daring, and willingness to experiment alien to both.

Like that other overwhelming Indian masterpiece I experienced recently, 'The Cloud-Capped Star', the film betrays a knowledge and mastery of the Hollywood melodrama, taking not only its visual cue from it (compositions that constrict characters; lighting and editing that reflect sensibility rather than reality etc.), but its use of a despised, populist form to create a charged, critical work.

Many of the characters recur through Indian cinema - the workshy men who produce only dreams, sapping their families; the women forced to become breadwinners in a rigidly patriarchal society, often becoming hardened and soul-calloused in the process; the children who seem to breathe the fresh air of a freer future, but are eventually suffocated by tradition and circumstance.

And Benegal doesn't stint on the melodramatic aspects. The expected emotional rollercoaster is here - quiet joys (a walk in a beautiful countryside; joking about with friends) alternating with scenes of harrowing violence (the beating of a young girl; the dragging of an unfaithful wife to swear fidelity before an altar).

What is different from Ray, say, is that these are put into an intelligently worked out context. Not some spurious historical one - Rajan listens to the radio droning, useful for giving us chronological markers otherwise absent. People's lives don't change in spite of the shattering historical events going on we normally think of as important. Benegal is interested in the lives that exist parallel to official history, that remain untouched.

this is where his complex narrative framework comes into effect - the present story punctuated by sepia flashbacks. This format is now a narrative cliche, but Benegal richly patterns his, creating a vicious circle imprisoning his heroine, doomed to repeat the mistakes of her mother and grandmother, just, we fear, as her daughter and granddaughter will repeat hers. Trapped in a loveless marriage, or, later, literally in the house of a fundamentalist lover, she is also trapped in time, in narrative, as a woman in a society where being a woman is a role, it doesn't matter who fills it.

The film is full of repetitions, of the heroine being brought back to scenes again and again, situations, people. The pretexts for these scenes may change, but their fundamental character - someone else wielding power over her - remains unaltered; any escape can only lead to humiliation, degradation, violence, becoming an outcast, a broken non-person, stripped of a role that is not life-defining, but life itself.

This is why 'The Role' is such a brilliant film about films; not naval-gazing about itself like Hollywood or il Maestro, but showing how popular modes can reinforce certain roles for their audience. The heroine may be an actress, but there are no paparazzi or glitzy cars here: for all her popularity, she is socially despised. ironically, although the Bollywood movies she stars in may seem formulaic, they give her an acceptable forum with which to express her anguish - as well as allowing her the freedom to try out roles (including a gender-bending swashbuckler), and to question assumptions, normally denied her in real life. The film may reveal the gap between fantasy and reality, but the distinction is never THAT easy.


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