Keeping It Real

Marathi filmmaker Nagraj Manjule challenges the divisions of a caste-based society in his debut film.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published:October 18, 2013 1:02 am

In his debut feature film,Fandry,Marathi filmmaker Nagraj Manjule deals with the travails of a young tribal boy who falls in love with an upper caste girl. The Marathi film (with English subtitles) is the only entry at the International Competition section of the ongoing Mumbai Film festival. In 2011,Manjule won the National Award for Best Non-Feature debut film for his Marathi film Pistulya,which was about a boy who is forced to join a clan of thieves in order to receive a proper education and better opportunities. In this interview,he talks about his

cinema choices and influences.

What was the genesis of the story of Fandry?

The inspiration of Fandry runs parallel to my life. Since childhood,there was a deep-seated inferiority complex in my mind — be it about how I looked,my colour or caste. Having said that,I had equally strong dreams. These dreams were constantly at loggerheads with my inferiority complexes. Though some of these complexes were natural,some were a product of the Indian caste system. I have been watching the commercial Hindi films since childhood and though I enjoyed them,I could never relate to them. The heroes of these films and the protagonist in my heart had nothing in common. I could never see my life,my people and my stories through Hindi films. So I made a promise to myself that whenever I make a film,it will be about the life that I lived.

Fandry is not only my story but a tale of everybody from my caste. I wrote it in 40-45 days without putting the pen down. I have tried to tell an honest story and there is a hope of a positive outcome through it. What message you derive out of it depends on the point of view with which you see it.

Tell us the stories that inspire you as a filmmaker.

No artist can ever think of his existence independently of society. I observed simple stories and heroes (anti-heroes) around me. From the Mahabharata and Ramayana,some stories have always been neglected and ignored. I want to tell such stories of an alternate lifestyle,of something hitherto unseen. My life is my only inspiration.

You come from a tribal community in Maharashtra. What drew you towards filmmaking and were your parents supportive?

I never thought I would be a filmmaker. But I was a big film buff. I used to bunk classes and go to video parlours to watch films. The video centre was my FTII (Film and Television Institute of India,Pune). My parents were illiterate but they always felt I should settle down. I did numerous jobs. I even enrolled in the Police force and left within 13 days. But whatever I did,my brothers and friends always supported me,even though they had their doubts about me.

For a filmmaker you have varied interests. How does that influence your vision and thought process?

To express is a very important need for me. I have been writing poetry since I was 16-17-years-old. If I’m not able to express,I feel suffocated. So I keep conveying through either poetry or cinema. Literature has been a great force in shaping up my thoughts.

But poetry and film are different mediums. Film has its own independent language. 

What are your future projects?

Right now I am working on a film called Sairaat. This is also set against a rural backdrop. I will start shooting for this around January-February. This film will have newcomers as well as established actors.

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