Jayant Digambar Somalkar’s feature debut chronicles the experiences of a young woman yearning to determine her own future in a world where patriarchal traditions deprive women of agency and arranged marriage is presented as the only option for self-betterment.
Jayant Digambar Somalkar
We meet Savita (Nandini Chikte) during the first of many intimidating interviews by families of suitors. The topics of their questions range from her education to her maternal ancestry to her exact height, and Savita’s every response feels freighted with disincentives. She is considered too dark-skinned, too short, too poor, and perhaps too self-possessed. Savita is in her third year of a BA in sociology and cherishes her studies. Yet the more remote her marital prospects look — and the more dire her cotton farmer father’s finances become — the more her family regards her education as superfluous.
Shot in director Jayant Digambar Somalkar’s home village of Dongargaon, India, A Match offers viewers an immersive experience, observing its cast of non-actors as they work, cook, gossip, and participate in various everyday rituals — often while contending with rolling power outages. Yet for all its real-life immediacy, the film also benefits from Somalkar’s deftly deployed stylistic flourishes, such as the scenes — graceful homages to Wong Kar Wai — in which romantic tension between Savita and an admirer causes everything to slow to a sensuous waltz.
A Match brims with ordinary joys and frustrations, but underlying its every moment is a plea to disrupt the status quo. In one scene, a teacher asks students if they are familiar with the concept of female empowerment — and affirmative answers are in short supply. But the more time we spend with Somalkar’s brave heroine, the more we sense that real change is on its way.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival