I don’t watch a lot of regional cinema, not even when the odd movie receives stellar reviews across the board spurring people who don’t even understand the language to go take a look. Sometimes though, I am inspired. In the midst of a light work-week that saw a burst of hyper-efficiency, I found myself with enough time to watch two movies in the last five days. After watching Waiting, I caught an evening show of Sairat a couple of days ago, prompted mostly by all the good press its received.
It’s always a movie, or a piece of news about the most recent caste atrocity to have made the news that shakes me out of my bubble of privilege. Being blessed with a privileged life, socio economic comforts and an existence of always having the right to exercise my choice and freewill does make me rather clueless about the disparity that continues to exist. Until the next news item that hits me, or the next award winning movie comes along. Being aware of one’s own privilege takes constant effort – to keep examining the margins and to always be aware of where things stand, in context to the norm in the country, to consistently remind myself that I am a minuscule minority and that a vast majority still faces oppression, discrimination, segregation and the worst atrocities perpetrated in the name of caste.
I see this realisation increasingly creeping up at me, whether in the work I do, the things I read or the media I choose to consume. So, I might be stating the obvious here, but as someone who isn’t very exposed to this kind of cinema, and who is otherwise couched in a very cushy life, Sairat was an eye-opening reminder. If the job of such movies at some level, is to remind people like me of the disparity that rules this country, consider it a job well done.
Here’s what I loved:
- The brave and steadfast commitment to the central theme of caste hegemony. It doesn’t waver from the central theme at all, but delivers the message in an un-layered, unmasked, in-your-face way. The story taking deliberate care to push the prevalent caste dominance across in every little way possible. At the basic level it is a typical Romeo and Juliet story, but while it is typical and very common to depict that story through class and economic disparity, I haven’t seen a movie that used caste privilege to do the same, with such brutal honesty. It has some moments that make you cringe, gasp out loud, and like me, feel like pond scum for being so privileged that I am relatively unexposed to these realities.
- Each of the central characters were fairly unique and nicely etched out. Parshya’s closest friends, the woman who helps them settle in Hyderabad, for example, were nicely etched out with unique characteristics that brought out important aspects of caste and gender discrimination, which was also central to the theme.
- Like in Waiting, I found several show-dont-tell ways in which the message is delivered. There are little motifs, subtle dialogues, likely inside jokes that you will pick up on if you are watching close enough. Apart from the caste angle, it is also packed with several moments of humanness, of self acceptance, (for Pradeep, of his disability, for instance) of mundane trimphs (all through the building of Parshya’s and Archi’s life in Hyderabad) and of humility. And you will appreciate the film even more for it.
- Archi is a badass heroine, not a delicate, fair-skinned damsel waiting to be rescued so she can elope with Parshya. She rides a bullet, makes the first move in expressing her interest in Parshya, bullies her brothers and calls the shots, makes crucial decisions in the first half and is everything you don’t expect “heroines” to be.
- While the theme is intense, and you probably expect the film to be solemn and brooding, it actually is entertaining in a way that it doesn’t make you feel bogged down by the seriousness of the theme. Rather it hits you hard with a statement, a scene or a truth every now and then.
And here’s what I didn’t like:
- It was just way too long. It is the kind of film that stays with you and lingers on in the background of your mind, for days after you have watched it. While I came out of the multiplex overwhelmed and in awe, I couldn’t talk about it. However, now that I have processed it, I have to say it was long, and many parts could have been less drawn out. But considering this is Manjule’s second film, I can discount the only complain I have.