Chauranga movie review: What’s missing in the film is a fluid narrative

The trouble with ‘Chauranga’, despite its crucial subject, is that treads familiar ground without taking the tale too far.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Updated: January 8, 2016 12:27 pm
Chauranga, Chauranga movie, review, Chauranga review, Chauranga film review, Chauranga cast, review, film review, movie review, Sanjay Suri, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Soham Maitra, Ridhi Sen, Anshuman Jha, Delzad Hiwale, Ena Saha, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Swatilekha Sengupta, Arpita Chatterjee The trouble with ‘Chauranga’, despite its crucial subject, is that treads familiar ground without taking the tale too far.

That caste remains one of the biggest scourges of modern-day India is worth repeating ad nauseam. And that is the burden of this debut feature from a director who knows where he is coming from. The trouble with ‘Chauranga’, despite its crucial subject, is that treads familiar ground without taking the tale too far.

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Santu and Bajrangi ( Maitra and Sen, respectively) are constantly castigated as ‘chhut jaat’ in the village they live in with their mother ( Tannishtha). The zamindar ( Suri) lives with his neglected wife, elderly mother and young daughter in a run-down ‘haveli’, and rules with an iron hand-velvet glove policy : lower-castes are to be used, discarded and decimated, whether it is an attractive village woman who over-reaches herself, or a little boy who strays inadvertently into a `mandir’, sullying it. Of paramount importance is the `shuddhikaran’ ( purification) of the temple, rather than the boy who is injured in the flurry.

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There’s also a blind priest ( Dhritiman) who stirs the pot every now and then. And trouble is bound to arise when the unspoken adoration of Santu for an upper-caste girl is rumbled, a plot point startlingly similar to the Marathi film, ‘Fandry’, which is also about caste and societal rigidities and how conflict arises when the downtrodden turn around and demand a shift.

Why ‘Fandry’ works so well is that the story propels us towards a shift, and the turmoil caused by it. ‘Chauranga’, on the other hand, peters out. The power that a tale like this brings with it, especially as portrayed by the fresh-faced youngsters ( Maitra and Sen feel as if they have sprung from the soil; Hiwale is effective as an upper caste bully), and the casual brutality inflicted with frightening entitlement in this day and age on humans, doesn’t have enough impact.

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I liked the way the two Dalit adolescents keep up their spirits : no excessive drama, no whining. They know their place, and though both react to the oppression differently ( one with a kind of acceptance, the other with a flash of rebellion), both come off as naturals. There’s something about the priest which makes you shiver, especially when he pats his pet goat : an intriguing character you wish there was more of.

What’s missing in between is a fluid narrative, which hobbles the film. Or is the choppiness down to cuts? Either way, this is a film which could have been more.

Chauranga star cast: Sanjay Suri, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Soham Maitra, Ridhi Sen, Anshuman Jha, Delzad Hiwale, Ena Saha, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Swatilekha Sengupta, Arpita Chatterjee

Director : Bikas Mishra

One and a half stars.