AS a storyteller, Nagraj Manjule has some inexplicable obsessions. He believes in the love that’s unadulterated and powered by undying optimism. He knows that the only way he can show love is when his characters are fairly young, yet to be corrupted by the ways of the world or affected by setbacks that are intrinsic to the process of their growing up.
Unlike the adolescent lover of Fandry, the teenage boy in Sairat is much more sure-footed in matters of his heart. Prashya (as Prashant is fondly called in Marathi) does not shy away from making his obsession with Archie (Archana) known to his coterie of loyal friends and to her. Archie, fiesty and free-spirited, responds with unusual candour after keeping him on tenterhooks — teasing and tormenting him in some delicious scenes in which his love is tested. Prashya’s depth of emotions finds its match in Archie’s unabashed show of love.
Their love gives the film some of its most joyous moments — arousing memories of falling in love for the first time with all its sweet agony. This, Manjule, has pulled off brilliantly by casting first-timers Akash Thosar and Rinku Rajguru as Prashya and Archie, respectively. Wonderfully supported by other members of the cast, they create a world, where love is all consuming and overrides all obstacles — not for long though.
The film is termed an ‘epic love story’ and for the most part of Sairat, it does capture the romance in its purest and most innocent form. Those who are mindful, however, can notice how the narrative of class conflict, caste system and other opposing social forces prevalent in India run parallel with the story of the young lovers. Manjule, in his interview with The Indian Express. had said these are ‘realities’ one can’t escape while telling a story set in Indian society. These ‘realities’ raise their ugly head — jolting the lovers out of their reverie, exposing how deep-rooted class conflict is in India and how power can be manipulated for personal whims.
It is with Archie’s character that Manjule delivers his masterstroke. If you like, call her the ‘hero’ of Sairat (which means ‘wild’ in Marathi). For, she is fearless and fiercely guards her love and lover. She rides a bike with gusto even though she struggles to start the two-wheeler. She feigns ignorance to Prashya’s overtures for fun but jumps to protect him when he is in trouble. Only someone like Manjule, who has a deep understanding of people and is a self-assured narrator of stories that question set norms, could have made the character of Archie come alive.
With Sairat, Manjule offers a technically sound film, yet again after Fandry. The first half is shot in and around Maharashtra’s Karmala, which is lush and picturesque. In the second half, the setting, that of an urban slum, is much more stark. The actions in both settings are beautifully captured by Sudhakar Reddy.
The music composed by Ajay-Atul is projected as one of Sairat’s USPs. While Yad Lagala and Zingaat still linger in mind, the background score did come across as an indulgence and distraction, at times. Someone like Manjule does not need these embellishments. For, he knows how to use the silence. The silence that’s deafening and can haunt you long after you have left the theatre.