Thursday, January 14, 2016

Movie Review: Chauranga

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The Story Frame:

Chauranga is the debut feature of Bikas Ranjan Mishra which portrays caste politics and violence as theme. The story is inspired by a true incident of a Dalit boy in Bihar bludgeoned to death for writing a love letter to an upper-caste girl. The movie features some terrific actors like Sanjay Suri, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Anshuman Jha.

A four-colored pen of a Dalit boy becomes a metaphor to tell the heartrending story 'Chauranga'. The film is produced by Sanjay Suri and Onir.

Cast: Sanjay Suri (Dhaval), Dhritiman Chatterjee (Bilnd Cleric), Tannishtha Chatterjee (Dhaniya), Anshuman Jha (Raghu), Riddhi Sen (Bajrangi), Soham Maitra (Santu), Arpita Pal (Nidhi), Ena Saha (Mona),

Genre: Social Drama

Direction: Bikas Ranajan MIshra

Produced by: Sanjay Suri, Onir

Written by: Bikas Ranjan Mishra

Cinematographer: Ramanuj Dutta

Production Company: Anticlock Films

Theatre Release: 8th January, 2016

Language: Hindi

Duration: 86 minutes

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Reviewer's Thumb Mark

Bikas Mishra's 'Chauranga is a movie that speaks volumes even in its silence about the half-dead half-alive castiest division in our society and how brutal it is even after so many years of our independence. The four-colored pen of a boy is so strikingly used to lucidly convey that we are still living barbarically in many parts of the country, where democracy has reached on papers and as elected representatives but it is so farcical that it mocks the very whole system of freedom and equality that our constitution and so called leaders trumpet about.

The movie portrays love that blooms in a village boy who is an untouchable and is devoid of the consequence of falling in love with the daughter of the village chieftain, who actually runs the village as his fiefdom. Perched on the top of a tree looking at the zigzag Kacchi Sadak (dirt Road), his dream girl on her scooter whiz by everyday to her school and back home; the boy in his  dirty brief and the well-dressed school girl depicts what awaits us as an audience.

Amidst this beautiful childhood infatuation the camera never forgets to focus on a black shiny long cobra amongst a heap of dried fallen leaves which hiss past discreetly to show the impending danger on the marginalized, the brutality and exploitation the upper-class are indulging in. In this nondescript village the chieftain Dhaval played by Sanjay Suri is everything - the lord, messiah and the final authority. He is a sweetened candy which is actually bitter at the core and he unapologetically displays it too when it comes to safeguard his power and supremacy as an individual and as a representative of the upper-class. Backed and advised by a blind-cleric. His sexual escapades with the lower caste help "Dhaniya' and his selective generosity to her elder son to let him enroll in a government school to study show how the elite use the downtrodden even when they are rightfully entitled to avail many things constitutionally in our country. It's not just Dhaniya but also the villagers at large are fooled and the public funds are misused and marginalized are wooed and silenced by distributing 'Bhoondi' (a local sweet).

Dhritiman Chatterjee the versatile actor has done complete justice to the character of the blind cleric as a warm, holy person but shockingly cruel, violent  sexually repressed within. His pet goat 'Kajri', Chieftain's teenage daughter (Ena) and his wife (Arpita Chatterjee) at various instances reveals the darker side of the blind cleric. Dhritiman has played the nuances so well that the audience fret when he appears and is constantly cautious of his intentions next.

And there in this story is a beautiful lower caste untouchable woman 'Dhaniya' who is also the mother of the two young boys, who is having an illicit relationship with the chieftain and she trades in return for the betterment of her children's well-being and education. Tannishtha the fabulous actor has again proved her prowess as an actor on the screen. Her love and affection for her children and her pain when she finds her pet 'Motki' (Pig) who also becomes prey to the elite class just because it dared to wander into the holy cleric's courtyard moves us and one can feel the anger simmer and the vulnerability within along with Dhaniya.

Bindu and Me with Sanjay Suri at Mumbai for the Preview screening of Chauranga
I can't resist appreciating the child artists and the kind of work they have done to make this movie so joyfully enduring and beautifully engaging for the audience. Riddhi Sen as Bajrangi the elder brother of an innocent rebel Santu (Sohum) catches your attention with great ease. Bajrangi who is lucky to avail the nicety of the village Chief is always made to bow with folded hands before him by his mother who knows the real reason why Dhaval is so kind to him. He also goes through the bullying of the village upper-class youngsters who have backing of Dhaval.  Every frame of Riddhi Sen and his brother Santu generates love and affection for both of them. The brothers also have some comic moments, for instance Bajrangi reading out aloud to Santu the anatomy and the various stages of adolescence in a girl and the changes she goes through in her appearance physically.
With the Producer Onir
Sohum as Santu is a silent rebel who is not willing to bow before the chieftain and not ready to succumb to the bullying of the village boys. He is found hitting back when he grabs an opportunity in the melee. Santu is the questioner of all so called beliefs, an innocent rebel, there is a kind of inquisitiveness in him that makes Santu watchable and lovable. He makes us find the rebel within us who many times though feeble has raised his/her voice and was silenced by Dhaniyas, Dhavals or some other bullies and finally stayed tuned to them for the rest of our lives. His unconditioned mind clubbed with a childlike curiosity make him tread into those territories where the lower caste are restricted and this makes him unveil the underbelly of the upper-class and the custodians of religion and spirituality.
With Tannishtha & Anshuman Jha
Anshuman Jha as Raghu, the village bully has done his job well. After his X : Past is Present, Anshuman though not the main lead here is successful in making his presence felt in the movie. It is appreciable to find him continuously exploring and experimenting with various roles.

In short, Chauranga is another feather on the cap of Indian Cinema which is witnessing a new kind of storytelling and is successful in challenging the so called box office hit formulas by catching the attention of cinema lovers. Bikas Ranjan Mishra's debut feature is commendable for its theme and also for its courage not to have a specific beginning, middle and an end in this movie. The whole plot is the protagonist here. He has successfully left the audience to decide what is right and what is wrong, and to imagine what could be the future of Santu.
With the Director Bikas Ranjan Mishra
 Go and watch Chauranga not for any commercial content but to have an appointment with our conscience in the darkness of a nearby theatre along with Dhaval, the blind cleric, Dhaniya, Bajrangi and Santu.

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 3.75/5