Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fandry, Sairaat and a new wave of realism

In the 50s, Raj Kapoor was busy making movies where the protagonist was mostly a poor man. Nargis was Kapoor's co-star in many of these movies. (She was, of course, the rich girl) Kapoor's movies were entertainers and no where close to reality.

In 1955, first of Satyajit Ray's movies - Pather Panchali was released. He made a few more movies based in rural India. (Apart from the Pather Panchali trilogy, there is Ashani Sanket, based on the Bengal famine) I think, this can be seen as start of realism in Indian movies.

In the 80s, Nargis, who worked in Kapoor's many "poor-man" movies accused Ray of "showcasing Indian poverty to the world". I read that it was her maiden speech as Rajya Sabha member and I think she can be forgiven for the comment. (One has to say something in speeches after all, she wanted the world not to see India as poor but as a progressive country.) Satyajit Ray, of course, stands acquitted. But this comment draws me to the mark Marathi movies are making today, portraying poor and underprivileged people.

Starting with Sairaat, Sairaat is about a boy from a family of fishermen, who loves a girl from a rich family in his village. Their life in the village and life after they run to the city is shot with realism very rare for a commercial movie with song and dance numbers. Then I wanted to watch Fandry by the same director (Nagaraj Manjule). If I thought Sairaat was real, then Fandry took realism few notches up. (Actually Fandry was shot before Sairaat and the director brought realism few notches down.)

Fandry was also about a teenage boy who loves a girl of "upper caste" and is really ashamed of his family - who have to do the odd cleaning jobs in the village, cleansing the village of pigs for one. It's difficult to believe that the protagonist's father - Kishore Kadam, is a professional actor and not an amateur picked for the role! And the boy - Somnath Avghade (maybe 13 when he acted in the movie) had expressions on his face that one cannot have after one grows up. (I think some facial muscles become dormant by constant un-use) He has very few dialogues in his voice that is cracking up as he is attaining puberty, even though he is on the screen for most of the scenes. Acting and technology in Marathi movies has taken a big leap since the last Marathi movie - Shwaas (2004) that I had watched.

The third movie in my list was Chauranga, a Hindi movie, I realized disappointingly once I started watching - A NFDC produced movie. As some cliched dialogues came up and as I saw some familiar faces, I realized it's just like any other movie. (I'm only half way through, though.) Made for pan-India and the age old story of exploitation of the "lower-caste" woman by "upper-caste" male. (among other things)

But the realization for me here is that Indian audience is adjusting to the realism and thanks to Social Media there is nothing hidden about a country to the outside world and one can be as close to real as one can dare. But, as I read in another article, movies that are made for pan-India and with commercial motives and market dynamics in mind (like Dhadak which is a remake of Sairaat in Hindi) cannot really dare!


Manju Edangam said...

How about Shyam Benegal's movies? I guess some of the new wave movies did portray social realism. But I'm not sure whether caste identities were explicitly mentioned.

SHE said...

Shyam Benegal's first movie was released in 1973. Close to two decades after Ray's first movie. (Starry eyed Benegal's interview of Ray on YouTube is worth watching) Benegal definitely took forward Ray's legacy (Nishant on Feudal landlord is one of my favorites, where a revolution takes form in a temple. Mandi is another favorite, which portrays how a city flourishes around a red-light area. More than caste, they were class clash movies.) I think, Marathi plays and Marathi Dalit literature have always been path breaking. Now with some technology and money, they are also making good movies too. However, I don't know enough about Malayalam movies, though I've watched only a couple of Adoor Gopalakrishna's movies.