Fandry: A Cinematic Journey from Rejection to Resistance



Jaishree Kapur


Jaishree Kapur is currently working as an Assistant Professor (Ad-hoc) in the Department of English, Lakshmibai College, University of Delhi. She is working on cinematic adaptations of literary narratives that deal with the issue of caste in different regions of India as part of her PhD research program.




Within the realm of Bombay cinema or Bollywood — an industry (in)famous for providing an escape route from the social reality, there is a marked rejection of the voices from the margins owing to the commercial nature of the industry. Since cinema as a medium is hugely dependent on economic viability and collaborative ventures, Dalits who have been historically subjugated on social, economic, political, and cultural fronts have remained alienated from the film industry, barring a few exceptions. The films that dealt with the issue of caste have been mostly made with a sympathetic eye of the upper caste filmmakers who have projected the ‘others’ from a distanced position in order to bring to the surface, the social evils of the society. The recent developments in regional cinema have witnessed an emergence of filmmakers who do not condescend on telling tales on behalf of the marginalised and the oppressed but endeavour to represent in the visual realm, a world from within. This act of reclaiming one’s own agency by documenting a world full of dreams, desires, aspirations and the everyday lived reality of the excluded are moments that register sites of resistance. In this light, the present paper attempts to understand how Nagraj Popatrao Manjule in his first full length Marathi film, Fandry (2014) has represented the complex working mechanism of caste on screen by depicting the cinematic journey of an untouchable teenager boy who faces rejection on continual basis and becomes, “unseeable, unapproachable and un-hearable” (Kumar 1).  The paper will further scrutinize how the filmmaker creates both moments of resistance that reject this reduction within the cinematic journey of his protagonist, and simultaneously recreates his own lived reality on screen which becomes an active act of resisting the hegemony of traditional chaturvarna caste hierarchies.


Keywords: Rejection, Marginal, Denial, Assertion, Location, Resistance


If I did not have a pen in my hand


It would have been a chisel

A sitar

A flute

Or perhaps a canvas and brush


I would have been digging

With whatever I had

This extravagant cacophony of mind

—Nagraj Manjule[1]


     Nagraj Popatrao Manjule belongs to the Vadar caste in Maharashtra who were traditionally relegated the work of cutting stones for their survival. Inspired by the teachings of Jyotiba Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar, he became the first person to receive education in his family and completed his Masters in Marathi literature with the objective of becoming a professor in a university. The above quoted lines clearly throw light on how literary, physical, instrumental or artistic tools are simply different mediums to assert one’s voice that has been rejected by the so-called canon; the medium for proliferating one’s ideas might change yet the objective remains the same. The urgency with which Manjule documents his voice in these lines also forms the guiding principle behind the cinematic medium chosen to depict his own life story on the celluloid. Interestingly, Fandry was released on the Valentine’s day of 2014; a film about the innocent love of a teenage boy Jabya or Jambuwant Kachru Mane (played by Somnath Avghade), that reaches a realisation towards the end; realisation not in the traditional sense where the boy meets the girl leading to a fairy-tale ending  that Bollywood has fed its audience since ages, but in sharp contrast, the journey of the protagonist makes him realise the impossibility of loving freely in a world bridled by the caste hierarchies, frustrating the expectations of the audience.                                                      


     Situated in the village of Akolnagar, near Ahmednagar, the child protagonist of Manjule’s film, Jabya or Jabuwant Kachru Mane belongs to Kaikadi[2] community, a lower caste community that is presented as surviving on digging, construction work, and basket weaving in the film. Through the character of superstitious and eccentric Chankya (Nagraj Popatrao Manjule), the child has been convinced that only the ashes of a black bird can magically make the girl of his dreams—the upper caste, fair skinned Shalu or Shalini (Rajashree Kharat), fall in love with him. The film begins in a serene stretch of wood where the spectators are slowly led into the world of Jabya holding a slingshot with unblinking eyes transfixed onto the long tailed black sparrow. The tracking shots that bring us near Jabya are immediately succeeded by point of view shots, clearly establishing in the beginning of the film itself that the spectators shall see the world from the eyes of this teenager. The film clearly traces an insider’s world created in order to familiarize the audience with the perspective of another insider i.e., the filmmaker. After Jabya’s failed attempt to catch the elusive bird, there is a transition from this dreamlike landscape full of expectations and soft music on sarod to an arid, barren land where Jabya confronts the harsh realities of his life. While on the one hand, this fantasy like space is full of chirping birds, rustling leaves and stark bright light falling on the trees, the world where he resides i.e., his hut is an unusually dark, dim lit space lacking electricity and something as essential as a gas stove. The walls of hut are covered by tin sheets and a family of seven manage with barely two cots. The makeshift hay covered roof too rests on the trunks of trees. It is a place rejected by the entire village—situated on the periphery of the village, it is akin to the peripheral existence of its inhabitants. This narrative technique of juxtaposing two contradictory worlds, one full of anticipations, dreams and desires that transcend one’s caste position, and other where one is constantly reminded about the impossibility of achieving the former world becomes a predominant motif that runs throughout the film.                                                                                                                                      

Animals and birds occupy a pivotal role in the cinematic narrative. In conjunction with Dalit folkloric allusions to birds and animals, the filmmaker unfolds the concept of purity/pollution through intriguing symbolism. In an interview with Anupama Chopra, Manjule explains, “We impose caste system on animals; a crow is an untouchable but a sparrow is a brahman …”[3] (Chopra) making apparent that it is not just the humans who remain burdened by caste oppression but animals too have been relegated different ranks by humans. In accordance with the superior caste position, the little black long tailed bird always holds an elevated status in the realm of the sky remaining beyond the reach of a simpleton like Jabya. The elusiveness of the bird is directly compared to the ambiguity with which Shalu is portrayed as she always remains distant to Jabya even when she is right in front of him. When an elderly woman scoffs him that the bird is a Brahmin, and she will be killed by her community members, if she is touched by him, there is a direct link established between the bird and Shalu. Contrary to the upper caste location of Shalu and the black bird, Jabya is likened to something as detestable and repulsive as a pig. In the essay, “Rejection of Rejection”, Prof. Gopal Guru underlines, “. . . desire for recognition or elevation logically assumes corresponding reduction, rejection, cancellation, and annihilation of certain human beings” (Guru 210). The elevated status of one is necessarily hinged upon the reduced position of the other in the dialectics that govern caste politics. The word “fandry” which means pig in the local dialect of Kaikadi community becomes a symbol to unfold the mechanics of reduction as Jabya, and his entire family is reduced to the level of pigs, since their survival is contingent upon rearing, killing and eating the animal.

Aarti Wani in her essay, “Love in the time of Pigs” opines, “The pigs too are untouchable; girls scamper for a purifying bath if one touches them even accidently” (Wani 73). Furthermore, both pigs and the only Kaikadi community in the village coexist on the waste-land where people go to relieve themselves. Since Jabya’s traditional family occupation involves survival on pigs, his detestation of pigs (especially evident in his refusal to pick up a piglet from the sewage) concords with his detestation of his own untouchable caste. Pigs therefore, become synonymous to his loathsome caste position. They become a literal and metaphorical hindrance when he tries to directly approach Shalu. The film also throws light on hens and goats in several frames simply to lend an authentic rustic flavour to the narrative. It is this animal-bird symbolism that enables the filmmaker to unfold the caste binaries on screen as the dreamlike landscape brimming with soft chirping sound of the birds is constantly juxtaposed with the sordid reality of a barren landscape where black, grunting, filth-smeared pigs reside.


One of the major ways to reinforce the caste binaries is through food and inter-dining rituals. Jabya’s family is considered loathsome as they consume pigs who dwell in garbage and therefore, the family too is considered no less than filth by upper caste groups. The film concretizes the idea that people belonging to the same caste group share food with each other. Interestingly, when Jabya visits his friend Pirya (Suraj Pawar), he is immediately offered a cup of tea. However, the exchange between Jabya and his upper caste classmate is starkly different. Vedant has a cow in front of his house along with tulsi plant and picture frames of upper caste Hindu gods—all symbols for invoking purity and sacredness, amidst the danger of pollution.  Instead of inviting Jabya for a glass of water in his house, Vedant tells him the syllabus that he missed on the previous day in school from the gate itself. In fact, a carefully constructed spatial boundary becomes acutely visible on screen as a man wearing janeyu (sacred thread) and tilak (vermillion mark) enters the house while Jabya stands outside the gate. Moreover, he is referred to as Kaikadi’s son instead of his first name by Vedant’s mother, clearly underling how subtle caste markers employed by savarna groups allow them to draw caste boundaries and perpetuate hierarchies. Through these instances, Manjule clearly highlights an inherent sense of repulsion associated with a Dalit’s body.                                                            

     Jabya, Shalu, Pirya and Vedant all study in the same grade yet the starting line is different for each in accordance with their socio-economic conditions. Since, Manjule belongs to the first generation of people who received education in his family; he considers it as the only means which can bring a positive change within the Dalit community. This desire to bring the light of education amongst Dalits became an impetus for his first documentary film, Pistulya[4] (2009) which highlighted the struggle of a young boy to go to the school against all odds. Fandry seems to be a continuation of Pitsulya, an attempt to answer what happens when a Dalit boy manages to reach school along with the other children of the village. Jabya who is enrolled in seventh grade, works as a labourer during the day at construction sites, occasionally sell baskets in the marketplace, and studies under the lamp all night without any external guidance. On the day when he gets a chance to go the school, he irons his shirt with hot coal chunks placed in a vessel, spends considerable amount of time combing his hair, and dabs his face with finely grinded particles of cement (perhaps picked up from the construction site he works at) to have a lighter skin tone. The classroom too is not a free space of learning where innocent children coexist in harmony but is steeped in deep biases. Jabya’s only friend, Pirya is hit by his partner whenever their hands accidently touch each other indicating the deep-seated notions of purity and pollution ingrained in the minds of not just the adults but at the nascent stage of childhood itself. Pirya’s act of going back and sitting with Jabya is not an act of finding refuge with his friend but an unsayable affinity with another untouchable—in this moment of affinity, they are not merely classmates but the two secluded isolated rejected untouchables, located, both literally and metaphorically on the periphery of the classroom.                                                          

     Classroom is also a space where the verses by Chokhamela[5] are read aloud in order to instil the notion that rather than someone’s caste, rank or status, one must look at the character of a person. Ironically, the upper caste students who are taught this poem practise exactly the opposite in their daily lives as Jabya is mocked by his classmates, precisely at the time when Chokhamela’s verses are recited by the teacher. In the preceding sequence, an upper caste student takes out his mobile phone to openly challenge the authority of the teacher when he is scolded for not completing his homework. Such audaciousness too is a consequence of the power and the position of his father which has been passed on to him by the ‘virtue’ of being born in a certain varna. The location of his desk at the “centre” of the classroom allows him to act as a barrier[6] (both literally and symbolically), between the untouchable Jabya and the upper caste Shalu, and serves to underline the impossibility of the union between the two, undermining the idea of inter caste alliance as an effective measure to dispel the rigid caste boundaries and hierarchies. A clear disjunction between theory and praxis appears on the walls that surround the playground of the school as the graffiti images of Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Rajarshi Shahu, Sant Gadge Maharaj and Chatrapati Shivaji never enter into the psyche of students and these iconic images clearly fail to guide them towards an inclusive society. In an ironic undertone, Manjule highlights how the space that is supposed to engender knowledge hailing from the tradition of educationalists, social reformers and revolutionaries has now become an institution that breeds the caste hierarchies.                  

     Within the narrative discourse of the film, Manjule brings to the surface the idea that rejection functions on the logic of denial and exclusion. The only Kaikaki community in the village has been traditionally denied education, as a consequence of which they have become subservient pawns in the hands of the upper caste village heads. Jabya’s father called Kachru Nana (Kishor Kadam) almost forces his children to become passive receptors of caste oppression in the social fabric of the village. His entry into the film is marked by rebuking Jabya for leaving his construction work unfinished and for obsessing over his homework. It is a dysfunctional society where all the family members including Jabya’s old grandfather and widowed sister who has a two-year-old son has accepted their reduced social and economic position merely in order to survive in the village. Indoctrinating a sense of worthless in the mind of Kachru by upper caste men and his mindless reiteration of the same when he is in the grip of alcohol; not granting him advance money in the wake of his daughters’ marriage; constant use of slur words in order to humiliate him are in the words of Prof. Gopal Guru, “. . . coercive way(s) to reduce a person to servility” (Guru 216). He is excluded from the discussion during the gram panchayat meeting, from the so-called politics of the village undertaken by savarna men but has been relegated the role of service and compliance in accordance with his caste position. When he finds out the love letter written by Jabya for Shalu, spectators expect him to thrash the child but on the contrary, he remains passive due to illiteracy. Lack of education has also created superstitious individuals like Chankya whose entry into the film is marked by mindlessly lighting incense sticks in front of gods and goddesses. He adorns his fingers with astrological gemstones, immerses himself half in mud, tells Jabya to kill the black bird and drowns himself in alcohol to escape his grim reality. While Jabya manages to enter the classroom premises, his sister, the fifteen-year-old Surekha has been denied education and is all set to be a bride against a dowry of twenty thousand rupees. Along with Surekha, her mother and sister contribute both in the public and private spheres yet they become prey to the verbal rebukes of upper-caste men due to their location at the intersection of caste, class and gender. In addition to the central plot, the film throws light on the lives of all these characters who are otherwise rejected by the dominant social groups in the village.

    In one of the most iconic sequence of the film, the procession ritual of a local deity is traced where different people perform roles in accordance to their caste and class position. In order to gain recognition in the eyes of Shalu, Jabya insists on playing halgi[7]; he wears a crisp new shirt, dances enthusiastically on rhythm of the music despite of being constantly brushed aside by upper caste men, and most visibly when he sits on the shoulders of Chankya. Immediately after a brief moment of ecstasy, he is made to come down both literally and metaphorically from the shoulders of Chakya to perform his role of holding the burden of his caste. It is not merely the lamp which burns over his head in this scene but the fire signifies the spirit of the child which burns as his desire for acceptance and recognition crumbles down right in front of the spectators. The scene is shot meticulously with a camera movement from overhead to low angle shot, capturing his face smeared with tears of rejection making it especially heart wrenching as it appears after the voiceover of his love letter. A suffocating ambience dispels on to the screen as the upper caste men vigorously dance right in front of his eyes as if to mock and ridicule his caste status. Manjule makes the audience loathe the very spirit of festivity itself that is hinged on the humiliation of a child’s spirit.


      Rejection as a consequence of one’s caste position gains a nuanced meaning within the cinematic narrative as it becomes visible in something as intangible as the desires of the two children who are located on the extreme end of the caste hierarchy. While Shalu enjoys wearing a pair of goggles, eating a candy, playing a game with her friends, trying out a pair of earrings in a fare and admiring hands designed with henna, Jabya desires something as essential as a notebook, a pair of trousers, and a moment where his eyes can meet with Shalu. The narrative depicts how she seamlessly fulfils her desires one after the other, whereas he perpetually lives in a state of denial. Clearly in this visceral world, desire too is contingent on one’s caste, Manjule seems to underline. In tandem with one’s desires, the first dream of Jabya highlights his inability to come out of the dark waters surrounded by the high walls of the well, symbolising his suffocation and impending drowning due to his caste position.  In sharp contrast to this dream, there is another dream where he throws the ashes of the black sparrow on Shalu who holds his hand and rests her head on his chest to the shock and wonderment of the rest of the characters. Manjule, time and again creates a dream landscape from the perspective of a teenager boy but constantly shocks the audience by highlighting the unattainability of that dream. Since it is a world created from the lens of Jabya which in turn becomes the lens of audience, the denial to desire and dream freely brings the spectators into the realisation that Babasaheb Ambedkar’s call of ‘annihilation of caste’[8] remains a farfetched dream till date. Jabya’s both literally and symbolically lights a lantern to read his missed lessons despite of his father’s rebukes; his refusal to go with his family members in order to purchase the much desired pants because of his upcoming exams; his counter denial to pick up a piglet from the sewage at the command of the upper caste couple; his ability to take charge of his own life for few brief moments by selling off ice lollies; his confidence that he can buy a pair of jeans with self-earned money by working hard and ultimately, his perpetual struggle to kill the brahmin bird in order to shatter the high walls of caste instead of merely accepting the impossibility of such an event are instances where Jabya registers moments of resistance within the narrative—resistance that is borne out of a belief that refuses to accept one’s destiny as preordained. By charting these moments of resistance within the cinematic narrative, Manjule takes a departure from the popular discourse around Dalit narratives wherein the victim is usually dependent on the generosity of the pitiful, sympathetic, benevolent upper caste messiah for emancipation. However, instead of creating a utopia with erased caste boundaries, the filmmaker deliberately brings the audience back to the reality.                                                                                         

     In the climax of the film, captured with meticulously employed VFX shots and a handheld camera, the entire family gets involved in hunting for the pigs on demand of the village heads. Jabya who should be inside his school at this time is denied that opportunity because of his family occupation[9]; he makes explicit remarks of his reluctance to be part of this hunting exercise because of the shame that it engenders but his requests fall on the deaf ears of his family members. His hiding behind the walls to see Shalu, now becomes an act of hiding from her. His occupation, lower caste status and familial affiliation i.e., the entire baggage that he had been hiding from his classmates from a long time is suddenly revealed which renders him absolutely vulnerable. Aarti Wani in her essay, “Love in the time of Pigs” explains the climax of the film in the following words:

          In an extended sequence at the end of the film, Jabya stands exposed in front of the  

          whole school. In a dilapidated place adjacent to the school is the pigs’ roosting ground,

          and a reluctant, rebellious Jabya is forced and publicly beaten by his father into helping

          him catch the pigs. The spectacle of Jabya’s thrashing, followed by his ragged family’s

          desperate scramble to catch the screeching, filthy pigs, attracts an audience; the upper

          caste thugs hoot and yell obscenities as they click and upload pictures of “Fandry

          match” via their mobile phones, even as Jabya’s classmates, Shalu included, have

          ringside view of this “entertainment”. Seething with humiliation and rage, Jabya finally

          realises that even as Shalu, casually sucking a candy, looks on, she can never “see”

          him, and no magic ash can dissolve the invisible walls that separate them.” (Wani 73)


     In these moments of clear demarcation of caste and class boundaries, in the wake of continuously calling Jabya as ‘fandry’, his classmates in alliance with the upper caste adults render him in the words of Prof. Raj Kumar as, “unseeable, unapproachable and un-hearable” (Kumar 1). Akin to the entire savarna group which enjoys the spectacle of a family divested of dignity and basic human need of self-worth, the spectators too stand condemned of merely watching the show without realising the need for an affirmative action. As Jabya carries the carcass of a pig in close proximity of the images of all the venerated stalwarts of Maharashtra, they appear one after the other as if lamenting this spectacle. However, Manjule obliterates the entire power dynamics as Jabya who has been the subject of rejection all through his life, gains complete realisation of his situation. The act of shedding away of his innocence and simultaneously regaining recognition is made visible as the perpetually hidden/hiding Jabya comes forward to hurl stones at the upper caste thugs, to in return reject the entire system which rejected him. In the last act of resistance, Nagraj Popatrao Manjule, the stone-breakers’ son, makes this ‘fandry’ throw stones at the ones who stand guilty of this visceral world, the real culprits who carry the filth underneath their skins, the spectators.                                                                           


     It becomes imperative to remember that that the story, screenplay, dialogues and direction of the film has been done by Nagraj Popatrao Manjule himself for which he has been conferred with the Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director at the 61st National Film Awards and the grand Jury Prize at the Mumbai International Festival besides several other national and international accolades.  Over the past few years, filmmakers who belong to Dalit community such as Neeraj Ghaiwan, Mari Selvaraj, Pa. Ranjith, Chaitanya Tamhane have successfully tried to create films that are strongly rooted in caste-based narratives[10] in their own unique manner. Behind the critical acclaim of Manjule’s low budget film[11], there lies more than a single, unidimensional formulaic notion. His choice of non-actors as characters, shooting within a village situated in remote corners of Maharashtra, the raw realism with which he presents the daily lived experiences of his characters, his poetic language that transmutes the social fabric of society on screen through the visuals, the rustic flavour visible in the spoken dialect of Kaikadi community, and most crucially, the employment of point of view shots to assert his agency of ‘showing’, rather than being shown are ways in which he deliberately takes a departure from the so-called mainstream cinema.


     Moreover, his own characterisation as Jabya’s confidante in the film in the role of Chankya paves a way for him to overtly mark his presence on the screen. The entire backstory of Chankya is traced in a conversation between Jabya and Pirya as they reveal that he married an upper caste-class woman but her brothers thrashed him and took her back, leaving him completely dejected. It is noteworthy that Chankya is aware that neither the queen of his dreams nor the queen of carom shall be in store for him. He encourages Jabya to not only pursue the girl he desires but also encourages him to reject his traditional family occupation, even when the latter has been unsuccessful in starting a new business. He not only physically places Jabya on his shoulders during the procession of the local deity but finds a deep affinity with him. In an interview with Irfan titled, “Guftagoo with Nagraj Majule”, the filmmaker explicitly lays bare his fascination yet disappointment with Bollywood films that terribly fell short to reveal the harsh realities of his own life which became an impetus for him to create such a film. He mentions how Kaikadi community that he depicts on screen, kills, consumes, and survives on pigs akin to his own Vadar community—locating points of convergence between his marginal self and its recreation on screen. He further adds in the interview that he never faced any difficulty in casting a non-actor as the protagonist since these actors live such characters on an everyday basis, further underlining points of congruence between Jabya and himself. At a public forum in Aurangabad[12], Nagraj confessed that the fascination by the western jeans and t-shirt outfit, ironing clothes to earn daily wages, playing halgi in a procession, working on a construction site are incidents borrowed directly from his own life. In an interview to Alaka Sahani, Manjule mentions how the film has been a “cathartic” (Sahani) process that led him to relive the experience of humiliation as well as realise individual agony which resulted from the desire to love, irrespective of caste boundaries. To concretise it further, one can note how the unusual physiognomy of the child protagonist as a dark, shy and hesitant boy who is not only from the lower caste, but also far from the conventionally prescribed notions of a ‘good looking’ actor, allows Manjule (both as Chankya and as the director) in a literal and metaphorical manner to re(en)vision his own lived reality on screen.

     In the introduction of his book, Dalit Personal Narratives: Reading Caste, Nation and Identity (2011) Prof. Raj Kumar explains how assertion of the marginal self is an act of challenging the status quo in the following words:

          Dalits, who have been raising their voice for quite some time, through their respective

          personal narratives were rarely heard of and thus systematically neglected in the

          academic circle. One possible reason for this neglect could be the fact that these voices

          challenge the hegemony of the upper caste and make way for assertion of the marginal

          self. (Kumar 1)

     This systematic neglecting of Dalit personal narratives has become sharper and more acute within the visual space[13] recently; but through this film, Nagraj Popatrao Manjule has been successfully able to question the so-called canon while asserting his identity as a Dalit filmmaker within neo-liberal multiplex culture. On the surface, the film belongs to a specific medium yet, Manjule depicts the entire tradition of activists and philosophers from Maharashtra through graffiti images, presents a rare site where spectators hear the verses of Chokhamela in a modern-day school and suffuses his cinematic text with calendars, posters, photo frames, placards to communicate visual cues to the spectators. This amalgamation of multiple art forms to assert one’s life story concords with his words in the beginning of this paper i.e., all the forms available in the hands of the artist are mere tools to communicate the views to the audience. If analysed carefully, this act establishes yet another form of resistance—resistance to adhere to any single specific formulaic notion of medium specificity. The film traces the transformative internal journey of Jambuwant Kachru Mane from rejection to resistance and in doing so, it pricks the conscience of the spectators till they are laden with transformative potential to traverse another journey towards an inclusive society.



[1] Nagraj Manjule’s first poetry collection in MarathiUnhachya Kataviruddh was conferred with the Bhairuratan Damani Sahitya Puraskar, besides several other accolades. The above-mentioned lines are translated by Yogesh Maitreya which appeared in an article titled, “Why Sairat filmmaker Nagraj Manjule’s poetry may prove to be his more powerful Legacy” published in Gateway Litfest on December 12, 2017.

[2] Kaikadi community has been considered one of the criminal tribes during Indian colonial period and continues to have a problematic existence in several parts of rural Maharashtra even today. For a detailed examination of Kaikadi as de-notified tribe, see “De-Notified and Nomadic Tribes: A Perspective” by Milind Bokil published in Economic and Political Weekly.

[3] The quote has been borrowed from the subtitles provided in Manjule’s interview with Anupama Chopra which otherwise took place in Hindi language.

[4] The fifteen minutes long film has been conferred with more than twenty awards including the National Film Award for Best First Non-Feature Film of a Director by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India to Nagraj Manjule in 2011 and National Film Award – Special Jury Award to the child actor Suraj Pawar by the Directorate of Film Festivals by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India in 2011.

[5] A 14th century untouchable poet from Mahar caste in Maharashtra, Saint Chokhamela became widely popular for his songs and verses.

[6] Nagraj Manjule’s film Sairat (2016) which became the highest grossing Marathi film of all times obliterated the gender dynamics within the film especially through the scene where the upper caste female protagonist unabashedly stares at her lover within the classroom space making him uncomfortable. The depiction of impossibility of loving freely gained another dimension in the film as the actors move from rural to urban space and lead a marital life but the love, hopes, and aspirations culminate in honour killing.

[7] During the post-harvest season in the villages of Maharashtra, auspicious dates are announced and the local deity is decorated in the palanquin as shown in the film. These festivities are directly linked to ancestral traditions and the roles regarding holding the palanquin, deity, flags etc. are well defined as per the caste status of an individual. Jabya yearns to play the traditional instrument halgi during this procession but he has been assigned the role of bearing the heavy weight lamps on his head.

[8] The Annihilation of Caste (1936) is a book authored by Babasaheb Ambedkar. Initially, it was prepared as a speech to be delivered in Lahore. The phrase has been incorporated in the above paper to substantiate the argument.

[9] For a detailed study of occupational discrimination as part of social exclusion, see “Caste and Economic Discrimination” by Sukhdeo Thorat and Katherine S. Newman published in The Problem of Caste: Essays from Economic and Political Weekly edited by Satish Deshpande.

[10] It is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the cinematic aesthetics that guide each of these film makers.  

[11] The film has been made within the budget of one crore seventy-five lakh rupees and received a return of seven crores. For understanding the film within the larger economic perspective of Marathi cinema, see “Fandry and Sairat: Regional Cinema and Marginality” by Hrishikesh Ingle published in Economic and Political Weekly. (Special Articles)

[12] The information has been provided to the author by Mr. Gopal Shrinath Tiwari, the dialogue writer of the Marathi film, Poet in Two Worlds (2020) who had a personal interaction with the filmmaker in Aurangabad.

[13] The active media trail on the issue of nepotism has been largely restricted to class structures within cinema instead of shedding due light on the caste biases within the cultural matrix of the film industry.



Works Cited

Bokil, Milind. “De-Notified and Nomadic Tribes: A Perspective”. Economic and Political

Weekly, Jan. 12-18, 2002, Vol. 37. No. 2 (Jan. 12-18, 2002), pp. 148-154.

Fandry. Directed by Nagraj Popatrao Manjule. Performances by Somnath Avghade and

Rajashree Kharat. Distributed by Reliance Media Works and Zee Entertainment, 2013.

Guru, Gopal. “Rejection of Rejection: Foregrounding Self Respect". On Humiliation: Claims                    

            and Conditions edited by Gopal Guru Oxford UP, 2009, pp. 209-226.

Ingle, Hrishikesh. “Regional Cinema and Marginality: Fandry and Sairat” Economic and   

             Political Weekly. Vol. 53, Issue No. 45, 17 Nov, 2018. (Special Articles)

Kumar, Raj. Dalit Literature and Criticism. Orient BlackSwan, 2019.                           

Kumar, Raj. Dalit Personal Narratives: Reading Caste, Nation and Identity. Orient     

            BlackSwan, 2011

Maitreya, Yogesh. “Why Sairat filmmaker Nagraj Manjule’s poetry may prove to be his                                            

            more powerful Legacy” Gateway Litfest, December 12, 2017. Assessed on October    


Manjule, Nagraj. Guftagoo With Nagraj Manjule. Interview with Irfan, Rajya Sabha TV, 

            June 11, 2014. Assessed on October 28, 2020.

Manjule, Nagraj. How to Make A Political Film in India? Political Directors adda. Interview

with Anupama Chopra, Film Companion, February 25, 2020. Assessed on October 28,  2020.

Pitsulya. Directed by Nagraj Popatrao Manjule. Performance by Suraj Pawar. Aatapat  

            Productions, 2009.

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