The Shameless


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

"Bojanov draws not only a sensitive portrait of the bond between the two women but also exposes the dyn.amics of a deeply conservative and religious society" | Photo: Urban Factory

As a “foreigner” Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov takes on a challenging task with The Shameless, shooting in a foreign language (Hindi), a foreign country (India) and, as a male, dealing with a predominantly female-centric subject.

He started with the idea of making it as documentary but quickly abandoned the notion and concentrated instead on the story of Renuka, who escapes from a Delhi brothel after killing a policeman and seeks refuge in a community of sex workers in a small town in northern India. There she develops a forbidden lesbian romance with Devika, a young girl who has been condemned to what will be a life of prostitution.

The two women at the core of the narrative could not be more different: the older Renuka (a remarkable and award-winning performance from Anasuya Senguypta) emerges as hardened and ambitious while the younger Devika (Omara Shetty) is well contrasted as disillusioned and pliable with vague thoughts of becoming a rap star.

A series of complications ensue as the relationship ripens. One of the clients is a controlling Hindu Nationalist politician (Ronit Kokate). Meanwhile Devika’s family have put a price on her virginity and men across the neighbourhood already are salivating at the prospect.

Bojanov draws not only a sensitive portrait of the bond between the two women but also exposes the dynamics of a deeply conservative and religious society which in the land of Bollywood rarely is examined on screen with such a frank and uninhibited gaze from an “outsider".

Originally the director had considered using this and similar material to make a feature-length documentary but as his random filming progressed to find similar stories too the ones in William Dalrymple’s book Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (written in 2009) whose rights he had a acquired, he came across the liaison between two women and decided to concentrate the focus on them.

Bojanov has produced an interesting body of work which share common themes of characters on the run from the documentary Invisible in 2005 as well as fiction feature Avé in 2011 about two troubled teens hitching a cross Bulgaria and more recently Light Thereafter (2017) with Barry Keoghan as a young man in search of his idol, the French painter Arnaud.

The Shameless proceeds at an uneven pace in places yet Bojanov uncovers a repressed and unequal society in which misogynistic attitudes have been cultivated across the generations, with undeniably forensic candour.

Reviewed on: 30 May 2024
Share this with others on...
The Shameless packshot
Love story between two women who face a struggle against a patriarchal society.

Director: Konstantin Bojanov

Writer: Konstantin Bojanov

Starring: Anasuya Sengupta, Omara Shetty, Auroshikha Dey, Rohit Kokate, Koran Bhivagade, Tanmay Dhanania, Mita Vasisht

Year: 2024

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: India, Bulgaria


Cannes 2024

Search database: