The Hindu caste system determines a person’s social status. There is no control over which segment of the caste system one belongs to. This depends entirely on the family you are born into.
Serving as a sort of “social hierarchy”, the caste system has a knock-on effect on the opportunities one may pursue- or rather, what opportunities society allows one to pursue.
Made up of four segments: Brahmin (scholars, priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (traders) and Shudra (labourers), there is no segment allocated for the Dalit: the “Untouchable”.
Deemed the lowest of the low, Dalits are treated as impure and traditionally forced to do menial labour, such as cleaning garbage and dealing with corpses.
Indeed, there have been some courageous individuals who have spoken out and challenged the system.
The Dalit leader Ambedkar is an example of someone who stood up and questioned: Why am I treated different? Where are my rights? Where is my equality?
Omprakash Valmiki, a Dalit author expressed the oppression and the humiliation himself and his family had to face through his autobiography, ‘Joothan’.
What does it take to break a stereotype? What does it take to face a society that convinces you, pressurises you to stay quiet and accept what they say is your fate? These are some of the issues that Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi film ‘Fandry’ explores.
Told through the eyes of a young Dalit boy, Jabya, Fandry highlights the fact that love belongs to no caste.
When Jabya falls in love with his upper-caste classmate, like any other teenager, he is keen to impress.
Whilst his family saves up money for his sister’s marriage, Jabya spends money on trying to look good. His father wants him to leave school, his community wants him to stay trapped, to not progress but do the menial jobs they have been doing for decades.
Will Jabya manage to break the mould?
Director Nagraj Manjule is not only a ground breaking filmmaker, but also a prominent Marathi poet. His collection of poems ‘Unhachya Kataviruddha’ won the prestigious ‘Damani Literary Award’.
Born and bred in Karmala, Maharashtra, Manjule has witnessed the obstacles a poor family in rural India must face to get an education.
A Pune University Marathi Literature graduate, Manjule’s first film ‘Pistulya’ – a National Award-winning short – is inspired by his own experiences.
The film reflects the struggles faced by a young village boy determined to get an education – despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
It is when filmmakers reflect their difficult experiences and struggles through art, through film, that society will be forced to acknowledge and change for the better. Despite India prohibiting discrimination against caste, widespread prejudices still exist. Let’s hope that Nagraj Manjule’s film ‘Fandry’ can change this through depicting Jabya’s journey
‘Fandry’ Screenings at the London Film Festival:
Screen on the Green: Oct 12th, 2013, 3.30pm
Rich Mix, Screen 1: Oct 15, 2013, 6.30pm