MOVIE REVIEW: CHAURANGA

The film’s title can be interpreted in many ways. The four colours could denote the different shades of human behaviour or even the different castes that cumulatively form a society (assuming social stratification). It’s evident that each colour has its own distinct importance and purpose in the larger scheme of things and this film only reinforces the same.
This one is a tale of caste-based discrimination, oppression and debauchery. And these grave societal issues have been cursively blended with tales of young love, middle-aged lust and infidelity.
Set in the hinterlands of India, this is the story of a Dalit boy, Santu (Soham Maitra), who aspires to go to school like his elder brother Bajrangi (Riddhi Sen). Riddled in poverty, their mother, Dhaniya (Tannishtha Chatterjee) tries to make ends meet by serving as a domestic help in the household of the village stronghold Babusaheb (Sanjay Suri). Apart from her duties, she also romances her employer, who happens to sponsor the education of her elder child. A parallel track in the film revolves around Santu’s adolescent crush on Babusaheb’s daughter Mona (Ena Saha). While he battles the idea of spelling out his feelings, he’s threatened by the consequences. The film is dotted with several landmark incidents, mostly cruel, and it sketches a dark tale that can often render the audience hopeless. But this is because it succeeds in engaging one to that extent.
Sanjay Suri channels the intimidation of Ronit Roy’s Billu Pehalwan (Guddu Rangeela). While he rarely gets violent himself, he has a pair of scrawny cronies on standby, should he need them. To his credit, Suri manages well and his character commands attention.
Tannishtha Chatterjee’s Dhaniya is so natural, it seems like an extension of the actress. Despite being a woman forced into sexual favours to secure her children’s future, the film doesn’t seek empathy for her. And this is consistent with all characters, apart from Arpita Pal’s Nidhi (Babusaheb’s wife), who seems to have resigned to her husband’s cheating ways but occasionally breaks down. A special mention should be made for veteran actor Dhritiman Chatterjee, who packs in just the right amount of creepiness in his panditji. Be it feeling up goats inappropriately or pinching prepubescent girls, this blind priest is a character difficult to shirk from memory. Both the teens, Soham and Riddhi seem promising and present a mix of innocence and curiosity in their characters.
Director Bikas Ranjan Mishra is sharp in seamlessly weaving multiple plots that culminate into the inevitable. Also credited for the story, some may argue that Mishra takes too many creative liberties in his attempt to add cinematic flourishes to this otherwise straight-laced story of caste-based oppression. But this isn’t a documentary and Mishra has complete authority of scripting the extent of torture and torment he deems suitable. Audience discretion is naturally to be observed.
While we’re assured that no animals have been harmed in the making of this film, there’s a pig in the film who seems in need of urgent medical attention. The production should be credited for managing this realistically. A pure festival film in treatment and manner of storytelling, it scores for allowing the audience join the dots and doesn’t care to simplify or sanitize the proceedings for universal appeal.

Source: Bangalore Mirror

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GyQHzd4 Why watch Chauranga when a lot of what it’s about – pig-herding, love across caste lines, the constant tensions between Dalits and the people who won’t treat them as equals, the young boy who decides enough is enough – was already seen in Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi drama Fandry? One reason could be the mood the… more