Friday Review

Old story, new twist

Cinema lovers in Bangalore never cease to surprise you. Most conversations over coffee concern food and veer towards cinema. Tastes vary, but are yet similar and the dissection goes down to the amount of fenugreek in the ‘dose’ and the quality of the ‘chutney’ at a particular eatery. After everybody agrees to differ, the latest releases are discussed. Unlike food, it’s not restricted to our staple diet but purely content and quality irrespective of language. After the wide release Malayalam cinema is getting, it’s heartening to see Bengali, Punjabi and even Marathi cinema getting a decent release. Someone suggested ‘Sairat’ a Marathi hit and out of sheer habit I scoured the net for a download only to realise that it’s being shown at select multiplexes. I’ve learnt never to underestimate the viewership for films in any language, especially if the word of mouth is positive.

The hall was seventy percent full on a weekday afternoon. “Just wait till you see the reaction inside,” said Thyagarajan, the manager at Inox. Whistles rent the air when the lead pair, debutantes both appeared on-screen. Most were watching it for at least the second time and danced with gay abandon when the songs started. You assume that most are Marathi speaking with a sprinkling of someone like me who has to read the subtitles. A little essence is lost in translation but the basic spirit is intact.

Regional cinema is on a roll and Marathi films have made cineastes sit up. I’ve been watching a few acclaimed films of late and found some films fascinating like ‘Dombivili Fast’ and ‘Pune 52’. Then there’s ‘Natsamrat’ about a principled stage actor with a bravura performance by Nana Patekar. It’s not about difference in themes but freshness in treatment. Most of our life stories are similar. Only the screenplay differs. If you read the gory stories in newspapers, you realise cinema is a tame translation of life. Nagraj Manjule’s ‘Sairat’ is similar to his ‘Fandry’, yet different. If the latter was the toast of connoisseurs, the former is being lapped up by the laity while being critically acclaimed which is any director’s dream come true. ‘Fandry’ was about the one-sided school romance where a pig catcher’s son silently adores a classmate. In a touching finale, the protagonist symbolically throws a stone aimed at the viewer for accepting rather than encouraging caste discrimination.

In a sort of sequel, Nagraj delves into a scenario where the protagonists are slightly grown up and the love is reciprocated. They’re classmates and if the boy here is braver, the girl is brazen. The first scene is similar with the hero sneaking a glance at her from behind the bushes. Here, he effortlessly wins cricket matches for his team, studies well and is a poet. She’s the kind who roams around on a Royal Enfield motorcycle and will not beat around the bush when it comes down to her feelings. They are well wary of doom if discovered and are indeed caught when they throw caution to the winds. They are separated and false cases foisted on the boy and his pals. The girl is made of sterner stuff. After some very well written and executed scenes, the pair elopes and ends up in Hyderabad where reality hits them hard. I can assure you the end will leave you shocked and gasping.

‘Sairat’ reminds you of ‘Maro Charitra’, ‘Alaigal Oyivadhillai’, ‘Kaadhal’ and ‘Adhalal Kadhal Seiveer’ . There’s not a scene you haven’t seen before and yet there’s a whiff of freshness. It’s all about a subtle tweak in the treatment. The characters are all stereotypes with a slight difference in the shades. The hero’s father is the subservient untouchable and the girl’s dad is the arrogant petty politician. Her brother is the spoilt brat who slaps lecturers and then there are the hero’s friends who’ll do anything for him. If the first half is all about stolen glances and secret rendezvous, the second has the lead pair crashing down to reality. There are ripples in the relationship with shards of doubt and dollops of frustration. Nagraj excels in making the dramatic scenes look realistic, effortlessly manipulating your emotions.

The film is nearly three hours long but the director is confident that he has you hooked. The length of a film is irrelevant when the proceedings are riveting. I didn’t care too much for the songs to which my enthusiastic neighbour was jumping and swaying in her seat. But the background score by Ajay-Atul reminded me of Ilaiyaraja in Bharathi Raja’s early films. Rinku Rajguru as Archana is outstanding in her debut performance.

New directors always dream of doing something different. I tell them to just add freshness to tried and tested themes. Nagraj Manjule has done just that and how!



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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 10:19:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/old-story-new-twist/article8590448.ece

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