Director: Bikas Ranjan Mishra
Writer: Bikas Ranjan Mishra (story), Bikas Ranjan Mishra
Stars: Dhritiman Chatterjee, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Delzad Hiwale, Anshuman Jha
Runtime: 88 min
Released: 08 Jan 2016
This is based on Dalit-Brahmin relations in the villages tells how Dalits are exploited. A fourteen-year-old Dalit boy (Soham Maitra) is growing up in an unnamed corner of India. His dream is to go to a town school like his elder brother (Riddhi Sen) and his reality is to look after the pig that his family owns. His only escape is to sit atop a Jamun tree and adore his beloved (Ena Saha) passing by on her scooter. His unspoken love is as true as his mother’s helplessness who cleans the cowsheds of the local brahmin’s mansion, with whom she also has a secret liaison. When the boy’s elder brother comes on a vacation to the village, he soon finds out about his younger brother’s infatuation. The learned elder brother makes him realize the need to express his love and helps him write a love letter.
That caste remains one of the biggest scourges of modern-day India is worth repeating ad nauseam. And that is the burden of this debut feature from a director who knows where he is coming from. The trouble with ‘Chauranga’, despite its crucial subject, is that treads familiar ground without taking the tale too far.
Santu and Bajrangi ( Maitra and Sen, respectively) are constantly castigated as ‘chhut jaat’ in the village they live in with their mother ( Tannishtha). The zamindar ( Suri) lives with his neglected wife, elderly mother and young daughter in a run-down ‘haveli’, and rules with an iron hand-velvet glove policy : lower-castes are to be used, discarded and decimated, whether it is an attractive village woman who over-reaches herself, or a little boy who strays inadvertently into a `mandir’, sullying it. Of paramount importance is the `shuddhikaran’ ( purification) of the temple, rather than the boy who is injured in the flurry.
There’s also a blind priest ( Dhritiman) who stirs the pot every now and then. And trouble is bound to arise when the unspoken adoration of Santu for an upper-caste girl is rumbled, a plot point startlingly similar to the Marathi film, ‘Fandry’, which is also about caste and societal rigidities and how conflict arises when the downtrodden turn around and demand a shift.
Why ‘Fandry’ works so well is that the story propels us towards a shift, and the turmoil caused by it. ‘Chauranga’, on the other hand, peters out. The power that a tale like this brings with it, especially as portrayed by the fresh-faced youngsters ( Maitra and Sen feel as if they have sprung from the soil; Hiwale is effective as an upper caste bully), and the casual brutality inflicted with frightening entitlement in this day and age on humans, doesn’t have enough impact.
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