Watched Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Ahalya’ based on the story of Brahma’s most beautiful creation Ahalya, who was gifted to Maharshi Gautama and later seduced by a disguised Indra. Eventually, she was cursed to turn in to stone to be liberated only after 64,000 years when Ram would touch that stone statue by his feet.
However, Ghosh’s interpretation is different. In his treatment, Indra (the visiting cop subconsciously laying eyes on Ahalya, wife of an artist named Sadhu) is turned in to a stone statue after he violates Ahalya.
Indra, the cop, is noticed by Sadhu, the artist, that he is watching his wife, Ahalya, and asks if she is not very beautiful. Later as the story moves forward, Sadhu tells the cop the story of Indra, the King of gods, who had a magical stone that if touched can turn the person in anyone he wishes to.
The twist is in the climax where, according to all the mythological texts, it is Ahalya who is cursed in to invisibility or losing her beauty as a skeleton or becoming a stone statue. The Brahma Puran, Padma Puran, Ramayan and multiple texts consider Ahalya as being violated by Indra as he comes disguised in form of her husband Gautam.
Some texts do say she willingly gave herself to Indra even after realising he was in disguise. Some texts say that he was not disguised at all and Ahalya desired to be loved by him as the ascetic Gautam wouldn’t satisfy her desires.
Anyway, she is either treated as an adulteress or a victim ‘raped’ by Indra. Indra is also cursed to loose his testicles (as he tries to run away in form of a cat) and grow a thousand vulvae on his body and receive half the sin of every rape committed in the universe.
Sujoy Ghosh does away with cursing Ahalya. It is Indra here, representing the male lust that is suppressed but gets fired up while seeing the beautiful Ahalya. The lust is not out in open. However, it is stoked with words and actions. Sadhu gives him a way to satiate it. Touching a mere stone, the cop wishes himself to become the husband of this young, beautiful girl.
While, in reality, he is just the cop. His mental projection of himself shows him that he is the husband. After a bit of struggle and convincing, he goes for Ahalya. Later on, he sits carved in stone on a table which has five other victims as well.
To me, it appears as a revenge towards Indra who was solely at fault in trying to seduce or rape the wife of a sage. The film depicts as if Ahalya and Gautam have reincarnated to avenge the wrongs inflicted upon them, especially Ahalya, by the powerful Indra who has many disguises, he can assume many forms.
Sujoy Ghosh turns the table. He shows a family, Gautam and Ahalya, (as Sadhu and Ahalya) knowing the disguised Indra (and the likes) would make his advances and are ready to curse him in to a statute. And, there is no hint of liberation for them. ….