Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reel Asian Film Festival Review - Fandry

A young boy moves though the woods with a purpose slingshot in hand.  He approaches a tree and shoots. His target a black sparrow flies away unharmed the boy Jabya (Somnath Awghade) is not pleased and heads home to his makeshift home on the outskirts of a small village in rural Maharashta. He tells his mother he does not want to work tomorrow as he has just missed three days of school.  That evening after obtaining his missed lessons from another classmate he studies by kerosene lamp while the rest of his family sleeps on the dirt floor of his home.

Jabya's family is of the lower cast Kaikadi (untouchable Dalit) moreover they live outside of the city boundaries and are the only family of that caste near the village. The family is very poor having to do the jobs that no one else wants to do in town including corralling wild fan dry (pigs). Pigs are consiered unholy and bad luck if touched because they eat dirt and waste.pigs   Jabya also has  a crush on Shalu (Rajeshwari Kharat) steeling glances whenever he can however she is rich and in a higher caste. His immediate source of frustration is his father Kachru (Kishore Kadam) who thinks Jabya is wasting his time with school and he acts better than he is not wanting to do manual labour tasks the family needs to do to survive.

Writer - director Nagraj Manjule brings a story to the screen meant to pull the caste system out of the darkness in India. Jabya is very hard working and hopeful despite his status in life but due to his rank in Indian society will not get ahead.  He will have to work when others go to school or are enjoying themselves at the Village Fair. He is so desperate that he puts his hope in a town superstition that catching a black sparrow, burning it for its ashes and spreading those ashes on his intended target Shalu will hypnotize her them getting her to do his bidding.

The production features some very touching scenes between Jabya and his friend Pirya (Suraj Pawar) as they spend their time in the woods and desert area outside of town chasing after the black sparrow and discussion the things that teenage boys do: girls and looking go to get girls. The extent of the his families poverty is visited again and again from having to beg for water from neighbours to being chased off by a farmer for steeling thin branches for wood to negotiating for the smallest of dowries ahead of their second daughters engagement then not having the money to satisfy that small dowry.

Sommanth Avghade is well cast as Jabya. He is very believable as the hopeful dreamer despite his lot in life. He also performs well in the instances where the burden of his social standings become too much for him to bear forcing him to embarrassingly hide from his classmates when performing menial tasks. Kiskor Kadam is memorable as his dad Karchu. He is basically the town gopher as he goes from business to business hat in hand asking if there is any work he can do for a few Rupees and if not can a few Rupees be spared anyways.

Fandry is an important film that news to be scene and discussed. It hones in on the fact that more news to be done for the poor especially their children so they can have a fair shot to obtain an education. Director Manjule tackles a controversial subject with a sharp eye and a quick wit.  It's a film I highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

Fandry | Nagraj Manjule | India | 2013 | 101 Minutes.

Tags: Poverty, Caste System, Dreamer,  First Love, Superstition, Pigs, Village Fair.

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