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Chauranga Review: A stark mix of pessimism and hope!

Chauranga Review: A stark mix of pessimism and hope!

Source: Sify

By: Sonia Chopra

Friday 8 January 2016

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It’s difficult to believe the film is set in the present day. The India portrayed in the film is replete with casteism, patriarchy and repression of the worst kind.

Chauranga could also have been an intriguing study of human nature, had it been more layered. It shows how a section of people are completely corrupted by power they think they are entitled to on account of their caste. And this kind of power over others leads them to be not just corrupt, but also violent.

The film focuses primarily on casteism, and the shocking injustice that comes along with the discrimination. Along with it, we see the trials and tribulations of each character.

Powerful village zamindar Dhaval (Sanjay Suri) lords over the village with his upper-caste status and political connections. He retains his power by denying rights to the Dalit and the so-called lower-caste community.

Ironically, he’s involved in a relationship with a Dalit woman called Dhaniya (Tannistha Chatterjee). She is expected to be there when he asks, and in return, he promises to educate her two children.

Dhaniya’s older son Bajrangi (Riddhi Sen) studies in a town school, while the younger one Santu (Sohum Maitra) is the rebellious one, busy whiling away time, and climbing on trees to watch Mona (Dhaval’s daughter) cycling to school. When Santu decides to write a love-letter to Mona, Bajrangi volunteers to help him. Dhaval’s blind father (Dhritiman Chatterjee) is the village priest and is seemingly benign, but turns out to be the most stomach-churning of all characters. Clearly repressed and disturbed, we squirm as he displays hints of sexual perversion. He prays the entire day and insists on a “shudhikaran” (cleansing) because a Dalit boy entered the temple, but thinks nothing of molesting a child or unleashing his violent side on an innocent animal.

Dhaval’s wife spends her days ironing his shirts and doing various poojas and meeting all the expectations of a traditional upper-caste wife. But we see the pain in her eyes, and feel the heaviness of her heart as she lives each day robotically, and in complete silence. She seems to be aware of her husband’s relationship with Dhaniya but chooses to keep silent.

When Santu’s love-letter is discovered, all hell breaks loose. The film ends grandly on both a pessimistic and optimistic note. One side of the ending is dismal; while on the other hand, there is hope.

One wishes the film had more nuance and chose not to paint the characters in broad strokes of black-and-white. Despite being a tad simplistic, the film is still watchable for the astute performances and for the heart-rending story.

The masterful rendering by the entire cast— you cannot fault a single performance— elevates the film to another level. The cinematography, background score and editing are note-worthy.

This is an encouraging debut by director writer-director Bikas Ranjan Mishra, who doesn’t shy away from portraying India’s worst side. And then, he adds hope. Do watch.

Rating: 3.5 stars