Much awaited Marathi movie 'Sairat' by Nagraj Manjule has been released on 29th April. Manjule, who debuted with 'Fandry', a big hit, has come up with another outstanding one. It is a big slap to the dominant castes who carry Brahminical values in their minds, and makes everyone to think on such a society. The urban upper classes who are born in dominant castes and say there is not caste in society should watch this movie. In the first three days, Sairat broke records, in terms of earnings, in Marathi cinema. It is showing house full everywhere in the main cities of Maharashtra. The music by Ajay and Atul hahas also attracted people.
The first half of the movie has a very interesting village love story flavor. The second half really surprises viewers, nobody expects the end shown by the director. The thinking of the director on the topic is kind of similar, as in his first film Fandry. He wanted to present the picture of caste and how is becomes a serious problem in love. Both the films have proved how caste poses serious problems in society, on how it impedes the right to live as just and equal human beings . Fandry won 17 National and International awards before and after release. Similarly, Sairat has also been selected for the 66th Berlin International Film festival. Rinku Rajguru (Archie) grabbed National Film Award – Special Jury Award / Special Mention (Feature Film) at the 63rd National Film Awards in 2015 for her effective portrayal of a lively girl. Sairat is going to win many more awards and will break all the box office records.
The casting of the movie is just outstanding, the presentation of the characters make us to think of each one. It is not a simple drama, but more a portrayal of the village reality of caste based society. It has been always seen, if the male lead belongs to a lower caste, presented as usually poor, the girl belongs to a dominant caste - socially, politically and economically powerful. The male lead, when he belongs to a marginal caste, is usually presented as not handsome due to many reasons; similarly when the girl comes from an upper caste, she is presented as beautiful and high class. Nagraj also presented a similar picture in Fandry, but in Saira he played another game. The actor is more dominating than the girl in terms of looks. Archie, the daughter of Maratha (Patil) politically dominant leader, has played the character of a bold girl. Her socialisation in an upper class family comes up in her behaviour where though her partner is handsome and intelligent, but is not as bold.
The caste and religion based relations in the movie are touching, Parshya's best friends, Pradeep and Salim, belong to the Dalit community and Muslim communities. The bonding of these three friends not only comes from being together but from ties that are based on poverty, issues they face and their sense of belongingness to the community. Both of his friends are socially and economically poor whereas Archie is very rich. The communication between these three friends on the power of Archie's father takes place many times, but love makes them take extreme steps and risks which change their normal life and face many troubles. It is an innocent and just love which knows no boundaries, and limits. The beautiful comple do not have an understanding of caste based relations and how it is an issue in a Brahmanical society. Their friends have an understanding, but Archie and Parshya never think on that line. This is the power of love that doesn't allow you to think negatively.
From the beginning to the end, the upper caste domination and cruelty is consistently presented by the director. People from villages don't feel so surprised when they see the first half, it is not new for them to see: how upper castes beat lower caste boy if he has relations with their girl. It happens everywhere that the family from the lower caste suffers more than the boy himself when they run away from home. In Sairat also, Parshyaa's parents have to leave the village, as their caste panchayat boycotts his family. The exploitation is not only from the upper castes but also from the same caste, if a boy or a girl run away with a partner from another caste. The cruel caste system works like poison in Indian society.
After the first half, viviers feel that the couple would get settled in Hyderabad with the help of a Marathi women who also runs away. With ups and down, the couple get married and build their life. They get one baby and live a happy life. However, meanwhile, Archie's brother comes with the same people who made the couple to run and get beaten up badly. Archie thinks that things are over now, her family will accept her. Parshyaa comes home, both of them feel happy, but casteist minds don't allow them to celebrate this joy for long. The cruelty by the dominant caste proves they can to go any extreme to satiisfy their egos and maintain their socio-political status.
The movie not only presents true love that doesn't have any boundaries but also makes viewers to think on many lines. There is a need to make such movies that present reality which is difficult for many in this society who live in the illusory world of incredible India to digest. After Sairat, there is a debate going on in Marathi news channels and a few Brahminical minds have also ofered their critical reviews. The debate is about how such movies are encouraging to young minds to take such steps rather than concentrate on their careers. I would like to ask them one question: who teaches them about caste? How do they got to know that they are upper caste and others are lower caste? Who creates such walls? Who says there are no affairs in the villages? It is reality, the director has just presented it on screen. Every day, honor killings, murders of Dalit boys due to affairs with dominant caste girls are taking place. Why do only upper castes have problems with Fandry, Time Pass and now Sairat? Why do they think their children will be negatively affected? If you present the truth, they will never get any negative affect. These movies are the real mirror of society and it is difficult to hide this reality for a long time.
The message from the director is simple and presents the real picture of the caste system in the village. It shows how police works as per the wishes of those in power. In majority of cases, when lower caste boy and upper caste girl fall in love, they run away. And if they get caught by the police, the girl's parents file false charges of rape, kidnapping etc. The same happens in Sariat too, but Archiee is bold and committed so she controls that. Archiee is a very powerful character that breaks every limit and boundary. As Dr. Ambedkar said, women is the key to break this caste system. The caste system can only be broken by inter-caste marriage. I think the director also wants to present the thoughts of Ambedkar on breaking the caste system.
Nitin Dhaktode is currently pursuing PhD in Development Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
Image and trailer courtesy: the internet