Godhuli (English: The Hour of the Gods) is a 1977 Hindi drama film co-directed by Girish Karnad and B. V. Karanth, starring Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah.
It is based on the Kannada novel Tabali neenade Magane, written by S.L. Byrappa as an allegory for nation-building and the clash of modernity with tradition in rural India. It portrays the story of a modern agriculturist who returns from US after studying agriculture and brings his American wife to the village. The film was made in Hindi and Kannada versions: Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane.
Godhuli was included the 1984 International Film Festival of India (IFFI). At the 25th National Film Awards, S. P. Ramanathan won the Best Audiography. It won the Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay at the 27th Filmfare Awards for Girish Karnad and B.V. Karanth.
Set in an underdeveloped village in the vast rural hinterland, the story opens with Public Works Department workers taking measurements for construction of a road that is to pass through which is a common cow grazing ground and has a memorial dedicated to the son of the village landlord, who is respected by the populace, leading to upheaval and resistance. Venkatesh, village priest and teacher (Naseeruddin Shah), cautions restraint and counsels negotiations with Government agencies.
But this minor irritant is grossly exacerbated with the arrival of Nandan Gowda (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), son of the headman with his American wife, Lydia (Paula Lindsay). Bristling with ideas of modern farming and dairy development, he starts on the wrong note by drawing water from the baoli that is adjacent to the village temple, and which is considered auspicious by the villagers. Further, rumours spread about Lydia being a beef eater, primarily by a hot-headed, somewhat mischievous, holier than thou Gowda family lackey (Om Puri). To develop his dairy business, Nandan fetches some cows from his house, which is opposed by his mute mother, who fears their slaughter.
Incidents move fast as an aging cow is sent for the slaughter house. An incensed Venkatesh curses for termination of Lydia’s pregnancy and end of the Gowda clan. Matters reach the village panchayat, which hands a stiff punishment to Nandan, who performs the same in deference to his love for the land. His mother, shattered by the entire experience, does gau daan, donation of cows to the village priest, to ensure their protection, before she dies.
A teary eyed Nandan wants to participate in the funeral procession but is unable to do so as his wife suffers labour pains (even as Om Puri gets his head shaved). Curse of the priest comes true, when the newborn’s survival is at stake because Lydia is incapable of breast feeding. A lactating mid-wife comes to their rescue.
The beleaguered Nandan is all set to pack up for good and while packing is underway his infant son’s survival is threatened been hungry for two days. A servant suggests that the milk of a cow now owned by Venkatesh can save the child’s life who initially refuses but relents after intervention by the villagers. The incident chastens the priest who repents and handovers all his cows to Nandan while urging him to bring back the ones sold to the dairy.
Nandan rushes but is unable to identify his cows amidst other ones calls them by their names in the midst of incessant bellowing.Kulbhushan Kharbanda