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Bringing the C-word to cinema
May 22 2016 : The Times of India (Delhi)
Rich-poor yes, Hindu-Muslim sometimes, but caste is usually on the margins of Indian cinema. Now, one brave Marathi director is changing that with stories of what it means to be a Dalit in India
Nagraj Manjule is a Wadar. Till a generation ago, the only job avail able to this marginal ized community was stone crushing; pig herding was often thrown in as a must-do. `Fandry' or pig was an insult Manjule heard often on the streets of Jeur village in Solapur; even in college, in Pune his name would evoke titters. Manjule recalls ducking classes to escape the slurs. Now in his late 30s, he is calling on those mortifying memories to craft exceptionally hard-hitting Marathi films. He started with Pistulya, a Na tional Award-winning short film, and followed it with the celebrated Fandry on a Dalit child's dreams for a big life. Currently , he is the most celebrated name on the Marathi film circuit with Sairat (wild), the movie he directed and wrote, raking in Rs 55 crore at the box office [Rs100 crore by June 2016] and becoming the highest grossing Marathi film of all time.
The film, on a doomed intercaste romance, is also set for other regional remakes. Could it be that caste, often left on the margins of Indian cinema, is finally taking centrestage?
Manjule is clear that he doesn't want to ignore or hide the ugly truth called caste. “If you have to find a cure for an epidemic, it has to be brought out into the open. I grew up with a strange sense of fear and a realization that I was born into an under-privileged life. I was made aware of my limits since my childhood,“ writes Manjule in Maharashtra Times of his inspiration.
Sairat's story is simple. A talented, smart, lower caste boy falls in love with a spirited Patil girl and all is sunlit slow motion till the couple is hit by the fury of family and society . The inexorable truth is that neither education nor prosperity can beat back casteism, says the filmmaker. So convincing is the storytelling that it has enraged some Maratha outfits who are objecting to upper caste villainy .
“Sairat is a clever critique of caste. It takes all the typical filmi tropes like songs, dance and romance and smartly turns them on their head. The characters are completely believable because Manjule is talking of his own reality and that of his community ,“ says Arati Wani, scholar and author of Fantasy of Modernity: Romantic Love in Bombay Cinema of the 1950s.
As an actor
2014 Naad (Short)
2015 The Silence
As a Director
20?? Pistulya (short)
As a Writer
2013 Fandry (writer)
2016 Sairat (screenplay)
As a Producer
2016 Sairat (associate producer)
2014 Naad (Short)
2016 The Kapil Sharma Show (TV Show)
Team Sairat in Kapil's Mohalla (2016)