Born into a caste of stone cutters in Maharashtra’s Solapur district, the story of the protagonist could well be that of director Nagraj Manjule

The tale of ‘Jabya’ or Jambuvanth, as told in the movie Fandry, is a statement about directorial expertise of film-maker Nagraj Manjule. Every frame pays attention to minute details, be it the ordeal of trapping a pig, or the nuances of Kaikadi dialect, or costumes worn by the characters, or even the buttons used on the clothes.

The film deals with a Dalit schoolboy’s denial of his caste in pursuit of his love – an upper caste girl – and of caste realities which eventually pin him down. Set in Maharashtra, which has a history of anti-caste and social reform movements, the movie seeks to jolt contemporary India out of its denial of caste oppression.

For Mr. Manjule, who was born into a caste of stone cutters in Maharashtra’s Solapur district, the story of the protagonist could well be his own.

He would face insults in school and on the street. The village water pump would be washed down after his family tapped from it. Upper caste women would throw away the water if his family had touched it. Mr. Manjule, however, found a way out of the village through education.

National award

“After an M.A. in Marathi Literature from Pune University, I joined the Mass Communication course at the New Arts and Science College in Ahmednagar, quite by accident,” he explains. His debut short film – Pistulya – centred on a boy’s struggle for education, won him the National Award for Best Film and Best Director.

Fandry, which is competing in the International Live Action category at the ongoing International Children’s Film Festival here, portrays the life of the untouchable Kaikadi community, which ekes out a livelihood trapping pigs. ‘Fandry’ literally means pig in the Kaikadi dialect. Incidentally, Mr. Manjule dons the role of a delinquent in the film, whose upper caste wife is taken away from him.

“We have become so insensitive to caste realities that despite atrocities in the name of honour killings, we live in denial of caste oppression. [It’s] Hard to believe, but some communities are afraid to even spell out their caste,” he says.

Mr. Manjule also reasons that even if children do not comprehend the profundity of the subject or the symbolism used in the film, they will at least understand the story. And the proof was in the thunderous applause he received at the end of the screening on Monday.

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