At one level, Dweepa, a story by Norbert D'Souza, deals with the subject of displacement of natives near dam sites. At a deeper level, it depicts how different human facets come into play during a crisis. There is an underlying subtext of the Ramayana in the movie that will be of interest to those familiar with the epic.
Duggappa (M.V. Vasudeva Rao) is the custodian of a small temple for a local village deity at the base of a holy hillock. Duggappa's obedient son, Ganapa (Avinash) assists him in the appeasement rituals conducted for the villagers. Ganapa's wife, the industrious Nagi (Soundarya), constantly dreams of a better life for the family.
When the gates of the nearby dam are closed during the monsoon, there is a threat of the village being inundated. When the inmates are relocated to a nearby town, Duggappa adamantly returns along with Ganapa and Nagi to the deserted village, now rendered an island.
The ebullient Krishna (Harish Raju), an acquaintance, arrives to help them cope with rebuilding their lives. As the rains intensify, Krishna's constant presence creates a rift between Ganapa and Nagi. Ganapa presumes Nagi's attraction to Krishna, and is under the delusion that the two are to blame for the crisis unravelling around him. When Duggappa dies, Nagi senses that Ganapa holds her indirectly responsible for his death.
Fed up of the constant friction between Ganapa and Krishna, Nagi finally asks Krishna to leave. With Krishna gone, and Ganapa emotionally distancing himself from her, it is up to Nagi to safeguard her home from not only the dangerously rising water level but also a tiger foraging for a meal in the deserted village.
When the danger passes, Ganapa attributes their survival to benevolent temple spirits. Nagi's efforts go unacknowledged and her isolation mirrors that of Sita's in the Ramayana.
The film won a Golden Lotus for Best Film in the National Film Awards, 2002.
(An edited version appeared in Culturama's December 2010 Issue)