Fandry Movie Review: Searing Portrayal of Adolescent Love and Caste Discrimination

fandryThe upper-caste youth of India consider the reservations in the premier educational institutions( like the IITs and IIMs) as a punishment for something their ‘great-great-grandfathers’ did to somebody else’s ‘great-great-grandfathers’. Though there might be some substance in their argument that it compromises merit as there is indeed a big question mark on the effectiveness of reservations, this particular sentiment of the ignorant upper-caste youth of being at the receiving end of a punishment for a wrong-doing of only their forefathers is highly misplaced as exploitation of the Dalits in contemporary India is still quite rampant. Fandry (The Pig) is a well-crafted film which brings to fore, with solid impact, how our society is still terribly tilted against the marginalized sections which makes very difficult for them to break through their miserable conditions even if they strive hard for it.

In the film, we have a school going adolescent Jabya living in a small village called Akolner. He belongs to the ‘Kaikidi’ tribes who traditionally kill pigs and do other menial jobs for a living. They call the pigs ‘fandry‘ and hence the title.  He is a studious boy who aspires to escape from the clutches of the caste his family has been forced into for ages. He is also enamoured by Shalu, a girl in his class. She is everything he aspires for- upper caste, fair skinned and comparatively wealthy. Jabya is wise enough to understand the gulf between him and Shalu, but at the same time his adolescence makes him naïve enough to pine for her. He is also very determined to catch a mythical black sparrow which he thinks will help him impress Shalu. But the bird remains elusive making for a lovely metaphor.

Fandry is outstanding for a debut film. Nagraj Manjule’s control over the medium is very impressive. He paces his film gently, slowly but solidly building up for the powerful climax. Though marathi cinema these days tackles socially relevant subjects there is a tendency to make tear-jerkers or melodramas out of them. They tend to concentrate more on ‘what’ they are saying than ‘how’ they are saying it, resulting into what is known in the blogosphere as ‘NGO Filmmaking’. But Fandry isn’t that sort of a movie at all. The director wants us to empathise with the characters and not cry on their absolutely dismal life. But you just might feel in the beginning that Manjule is overstating things a bit.

The film is so authentic in the portrayal of the world of Jabya and his family that you seemed to be transported right in the centre of their universe. And the performance of each and every actor in the film goes a long way in maintaining that authenticity. Manjule’s decision to cast non-actors turns out to be a masterstroke.  Casting is a very under-appreciated part of filmmaking in India. The right casting helps to raise the film a few notches higher and this is exactly what has happened with the film. Every actor seems to be born to play the role. Somnath Avaghade as lead actor Jabya is mind-blowing to say the least. If there is anything called as getting under the skin of the character, it is this! The girl who plays Jabya’s love interest, Rajeshwari Kharat, fits the role quite perfectly too. She hardly has any dialogues and for a non-actor she is not at all conscious of the camera. One of the few professional actors in the film, Kishore Kadam has also put his everything into his part as Jabya’s father, named by the society as ‘Kachru’. Kishore Kadam is certainly one of the best actors in the marathi film industry and has never shied away from playing challenging roles. Chhaya Kadam, who I had last noticed in a very impressive short film called Vitthal, has also done a commendable job. The decision to shoot in sync-sound has certainly helped in conveying the emotions of the dialogues and thereby making the performances feel very real.

Fandry has quite a few striking scenes one amongst them is when a villager uploads a picture on facebook making fun of Jabya’s family’s activities. It paints a stark picture of India wherein technology has invaded but humanity is still absent. An even more impactful scene plays out during the village fair. Jabya, who is trying his best to impress Shalu with his dance skills, gets called out in the middle of his dance by his father and is made to do a menial job, right in front of the girl he is infatuated with, gut-wrenchingly crushing his hopes of getting her attention. The film also has a lot of subtext as it subtly keeps taking potshots at various aspects that plague our society like – the futility of our education system; the tendency in our country to idolize social reformers by building statues and painting their pictures on the wall, but not absorbing even a drop of what they stood for; the sexual innuendos that Dalit women are subjected to. Manjule has packed a lot in what is essentially a tale of adolescent love.

Another appreciable aspect of the film is that it doesn’t have the urban gaze which films like Peepli Live based in rural areas tend to have. This probably boils down to the fact that the director here is himself a  dalit and has gone on record saying that the film is inspired from his own life experiences. Nagraj also plays a somewhat eccentric character called Chankya effortlessly in the film.

Maharashtra has been the crucible of the social reformist movement blessed with the most influential leaders of the dalit cause like Ambedkar, Phule and Shahu Maharaj. Post-independence, it has had a vibrant dalit literature. So it may not be surprising that after Girish Kasarvalli’s Ghatashraddha, the most impressive film on the caste divide is from Maharashtra. Fandry in its stark depiction of a dalit family does remind you of Daya Pawar’s exceptional autobiography Balut. Interestingly, this film closely follows Anand Patwardhan’s seminal documentary film Jai Bhim Comrade and the marathi play Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla, both tackling the dalit issue masterfully. It makes one wonder whether a dalit awakening is round the corner in the arts of Maharashtra.

Director-Nagraj-Manjule

Director Nagraj Manjule does pack a punch with this film.

Fandry is mighty successful in what it sets to achieve, making for a smashing debut for Nagraj Manjule. As this review has pointed out, a scene from Shakepeare’s The Merchant of Venice very aptly describes the soul of the film :-

Shylock (The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1): I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

Special kudos should also be reserved for the producers Nilesh Navalakha( of Shala and Anumati fame) and Vivek Kajaria for supporting such a film and also to a big production house like Zee for picking it up for distribution. Here’s wishing the film turns out be a commercial success as well, encouraging more filmmakers to tackle such subjects.

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13 thoughts on “Fandry Movie Review: Searing Portrayal of Adolescent Love and Caste Discrimination

  1. Nagraj manjule justified his decision of opting for non-actors instead of trained kids…by saying he didn’t want anything to look unreal…where do you find such honesty these days…in commercial movies…good to see the movie being backed by stars like Ravi jadhav & ajay-atul….these are great signs for marathi industry…I hope FANDRY becomes a super hit!!! that would be a milestone in itself…because when was the last time a really good movie managed to get the appreciation of the common masses??

    • Seriously man, such honesty and seriousness towards filmmaking is rare in India. And even i am tired of Duniyadari and Timepass becoming blockbusters. Let’s hope Fandry does at least half of the other two films.

  2. Fandry is a great piece of uncompromisng cinema with impeccable casting.

    (SPOILERS AHEAD)

    The majority of people of who found the climax to be abrupt are those who participated in the revelry along with the villagers and was having a great time watching it…

    They are yet to come to terms that the stone was for them…

    • Absolutely! Most of the teenagers who were expecting something like ‘Timepass’, didn’t understand a bit. This highlights where our society stands today on such issues. Urban India leaves in this state of denial with full of ignorance and plummeting empathy.

  3. Such a wonderful moview myself I have watched all three movies Duniyadari, Timepass and Fandry too. Every film has its own objective and both duniyadari and timepass are realy good entertainer, Timepass was with some message too. @ Fandry its a gem,
    those who do not understand the message are either senseless as said by Ajay Nair, they are “They are yet to come to terms that the stone was for them…” or they must be those who participated in the revelry along with the Villagers.

  4. Fandry is perhaps the best Marathi film to be released in a long while. The trials, tribulations of the lower caste people residing in the villages of Maharashtra has been depicted in a brutally honest way. Kudos to Nagraj Manjule and the entire team of Fandry for making such a brilliant film.

  5. Finally I’ve seen Fandry & I must accept that all the hype surrounding the film has been worth it. It delivers a touching blow with a premise that’s deep rooted to the local environment & yet something that is of National importance. I admit that for ages I have myself felt upset with caste based reservation scenario especially in higher education as I have been a victim in the past. But a film like Fandry tells us that while probably Urban India might see things having undergone a lot of changes for the better in case of the Dalits, out there beyond the metro’s & mini-metro’s there exists an environment which we try to shun ourselves- an environment which still favours a lot of bias against the Dalits. There are a lot of poignant moments & the climax as mentioned by Ajay is simply shocking & director Nagraj Manjule literally shows his middle finger to all of us with the way the film ends.

    Rasik this is a very good take on the film,you’ve done good justice as expected.While I don’t want to nitpick I must add that Jabya wasn’t trying to catch a mythical black sparrow to impress Shalu.He tries it because Chankya has convinced him that spraying Shalu with the ashes of a dead black sparrow will make her fall for Jabya. Again this is an example of how such superstitions & practices are still followed in the villages.

  6. Whoever said that it makes a spectacle of poverty either is easily spectacal’ised (i might have made that word up) or hasn’t been to an Indian village ever….these villages exist right outside city limits, these people live just a few dozen kms from where we live……nothing is out of place or exaggerated in the milieu that the film maker wants to represent…..the love story (one-sided) is beautifully crafted…the characters are endearing and relatable and the situations are all probably realistic (since i have never seen it with my eyes)…..the climax is one of the most stunning (or maybe ‘the most’ stunning) in all the movies that i have seen in recent times….(Spoiler Alert begins)and the last shot of the boy throwing a stone at the audience is the most amazing ending ever…..we as the audience are implicated in the events in the movie and the stone is meant for all of us(Spoiler Alert ends)….hats off to the director who made this movie and producer who backed such a film….

  7. hey Fandry! you pig

    what you desire?
    
a pair of jeans & a t-shirt?
    
love of a girl?

    hey Jabya, are you out of ur mind?
    pigs can’t chase
    
the beautiful white swans…

    your birth 
marked ur stains

    there is nothing more to gain

    you went to school
    
they laughed
    
you prayed to god
    
they laughed

    you desired love 

    they laughed out loud…

    you wanted to be human

    they were born on
    e
you wanted to be loved

    they loved to hate 

    you wanted to be respected
    
they were humoured…

    your tears 
and
    their laughter
    
your life
 and
    their dogs

    your anger
 and
    their despise

    finally 

    your stone
 and
    their pride

    hey Jabya! my friend 
keep trying…
breathe out the fear

    next time you pick a stone 

    have memory of thousand year
    s
that’s your fuel to burn
    
the fight is just too old…

    a pig that you are

    and they are the arrogant swines…
humans!
    
laugh out loud my friend!

    hey! you are doing just fine

    Fandry!

    m…

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