CHAURANGA is gripping and sometimes churns your insides. It's unapologetic and startling as you realize that situations like these do 'flourish' in the hinterlands of our country.
First-time director Bikas Ranjan Mishra does a swell job in treating the viewer to some harsh truths as he weaves a tale about two Dalit brothers at the mercy of the upper castes in their village. And although these two brothers do take center-stage, the other characters, like their mother, the village headman and his 'bully boys', his daughter, his wife and the blind village temple priest all have their own tale to tell.
Mishra does not dwell on just one character but envelopes the cast as a whole to narrate a rather disturbing story.
Just a few months ago we had Kanu Behl treating us to some harsh truth with TITLI
. Before that we had MASAAN
by Neeraj Ghaywan. Truly, independent cinema is coming of age and the discerning viewer is getting a taste of 'real talent' from within our film industry.
Inspite of telling the film with no emphasis on any one scene, however, traumatic, [Mishra just moves on to another, perhaps displaying the callous attitude of the people around] the director paints a glorious picture which depicts the brazen cast divide leaving a knot in your stomach.
Bajrangi (Riddhi Sen), the older of the Dalit brother has managed to ensure an education away from his village while Santu (Soham Maitra), his younger brother, is left to tend a lone pig and perch himself atop a tree to watch his 'love' go to school every morning. He is the more vociferous of the two. While Bajrangi is at home on a school break, he learns about his little brother's love for the Village Headman's daughter. Unknown to them, their mother Dhaniya (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is having an illicit relationship with the headman in whose house she does domestic chores.
There's a catch her: Dhaniya does this to secure her children's education, hoping to give them a better life. But fate deals them a cruel blow when Bajrangi, on hearing about his brother's infatuation, decides to write her a letter.
How you wish Mishra had delved more into a few scenes and connected a few so that the others in the plot would know of what happened. This very longing of the viewer is what makes the film gruesomely handsome! It leaves tale untold, yet lays the facts bare!.
In the end the mother and sons are separated with none knowing what happened to the other. It is this longing and rage that makes the film what it is. Kudos to producers Onir, Sanjay Suri and Mohan Mulani for backing this project.
Tannishtha Chatterjee is spot-on as the mother of two with her focus on their future. The two boys, Riddhi and Soham charm you with their innocent ways unaware of the tragedy that is to unfold.
Anshuman Jha and Dilzad Hiwale both display that required 'disdain for the lower caste' backed by the village headman, as they go about terrorizing the two brothers and any of the others.
CHAURANGA is innocent yet vicious. It's a must-watch for those who love their cinematic display 'raw'.