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Dhulo (The Scapegoat)

average rating is 5 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Jan 3, 2023

Film Reviews
Dhulo (The Scapegoat)
Directed by:
Tathagata Ghosh
Written by:
Tathagata Ghosh
Payel Rakshit, Shimli Basu, Bimal Giri, Ali Akram

The India we see in ‘Dhulo (The Scapegoat)’ may appear distant and unrecognisable to our western eyes, which, for the most part, thankfully see a world of religious and racial unity, where people are treated equally irrespective of gender or sexuality. As we progress towards that heady idealised society we, unforgivably, tend to ignore the fractured and prejudiced religious situation in countries such as India.


‘Dhulo (The Scapegoat)’ is a painful film to watch, but only because it does such a remarkably good job of highlighting the current climate of hostility and persecution towards Muslims in India. The film begins with a shot of a decapitated goat’s head on the ground - highlighting the central plot device in the opening frame ensures that the viewer is instantly hooked to the outcome of the story, filled with questions as to how, and why, the goat’s head lies on the ground. Perhaps even more decisively the first person we see isn’t a persecuted Muslim, rather it is Neeta Dutta (Payel Rakshit), wife to the villain of the film. Most of the film follows Neeta, as she seeks to reconcile the religious divisions with a local Muslim family, leading to boiling tensions with her abusive husband (Bimal Giri).


Neeta is a likeable protagonist, good-hearted yet repressed by her husband, she nonetheless tries to help a Muslim couple, of which the woman, Topu (Shimli Basu) is pregnant. Indeed, it is Neeta who alerts the couple to the fate of their goat, and comforts Topu, offering food and support. Of course, we quickly realise that Neeta is in serious need of support herself, as her husband violently abuses her. In a country where the patriarchy is still very much upheld this is a plight that many women undoubtedly continue to find themselves in.


On the radio, there is a broadcast from the Indian prime minister in which he adamantly defends the Citizenship Amendment Bill (which was passed in 2019 and has been labelled a ‘clear violation’ of ‘international human rights law’ by Amnesty International India). The PM says that the bill isn’t discriminatory and that there are no detention centres, declaring that any accusations otherwise are all a manufactured lie against his governance. That is the state of religious tensions in India, with the Hindu nationalist party in power, and enforcing ever more stringent measures against Muslims. In early 2022 the founder of the Genocide Watch group warned of an impending genocide of Muslims in India. As a rallying call for unity in the face of ever-growing tension, ‘Dhulo’ is provocative, raw, and, at times, heartfelt.


Writer-director Tathagata Ghosh passionately addresses the issue, but doesn’t rely purely on the audience’s morals to create a moving picture. Ghosh’s direction is wonderfully effective, from close-ups of tear-stricken faces, to wider shots of the landscape. He perhaps best demonstrates his technical ability when using a handheld POV shot, though not the most significant to the plot, it exhilarates the viewer. Ghosh’s script is muscular, blending a critique of religious persecutions with an equally damning critique of the patriarchy. It is the women, repressed by their husbands in different ways, who are ultimately the central figures to the plot and the driving forces of unity.


‘Dhulo (The Scapegoat) is an illuminating film, highlighting the growing issues in India today with a technical prowess befitting a more experienced filmmaker. It is an important film, yes for its performances and direction, but more so because of the context in which it is released. As we begin a new year full of hope, we should consider that not all are afforded that same luxury.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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