Movie Review: Chauranga - A Tale of ‘Real India’
If you have resolved to watch intelligent sensible cinema then look no further, book your tickets for ‘Chauranga’.
Light years away from the holiday homes of Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Rohit Shetty, there exists a place called “Real India”. It is this India and its many social problems which take centre stage in Chauranga. Directed and written by Bikas Ranjan Mishra, it deals with the very sensitive issue of caste discrimination. There have been films with allegorical references to this social evil, but Bollywood generally likes to gloss over it. Having garnered rave reviews at many film festivals and winning the India Gold award at the Mumbai International Film Festival, Chauranga presents a slice of life that warrants our attention and admiration.
Caste, class and gender discrimination are at play as we meet two young boys in a village. The older of the two, Bajrangi is home from school and is beaten senseless by two men. The younger one (Santu) hits back and runs. This thread plays throughout the film. Characters are shown both as victims bound by social shackles as also registering their own personal silent victories every time they refuse to comply with fossilised norms. Tannishtha Chatterjee, who plays their mother, Dhaniya, works as a maid at the local strongman’s (Sanjay Suri) house and has the agency to at least decide who her sexual partner would be. Suri’s on-screen wife Nidhi (Arpita Chatterjee), though upper-class, is nothing but a mute sufferer at the hands of her husband. Dhaniya’s robustness is in stark contrast to Nidhi’s own defeatist approach to life. Mona (Ena Saha), her daughter, is further victimised on account of her gender while Santu who nurses a deep crush on Mona manages to live life on his terms.
Very layered and unflinching in its pursuit to discover the various caste and gender paradigms at play, Chauranga is rich in its subtle symbolism and brilliantly executed performances. Riddhi Sen and Soham Maitra as brothers, with their mutual protectiveness, are very endearing. The foreboding tone that helps Bikas Mishra create some memorable cinematic experiences would have fallen flat had it not been for seasoned actors like Tannishtha Chatterjee and Dhritiman Chatterjee. Sanjay Suri seems to be the weaker link as he looks too suave and polished to be village strongman, but considering he along with Onir are the producers of this film, we could choose to be more forgiving!
All in all, Chauranga is highly engaging and in this new year, if you have resolved to watch some intelligent sensible cinema then look no further.
I give it 4 QUINTS OUT OF 5. All those who love Rohit Shetty brand of filmmaking and his jumping jack cars, beware, this might not be for you.
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