Chauranga tackles multiple issues within the microcosm of a single Hindi-speaking village around 2010 going by reference to Dabangg in the film. The story is inspired by a true incident in Bihar that occurred in 2008. It also shows how power over thought can turn humans into creatures worse than beasts. Today, world over we are witnessing murderous attacks where the murderers actually think they are treading the right path.
Chauranga has a village landlord Dhaval (Sanjay Suri) who indirectly rules through a pliable village Headman. He completely believes in the “lowliness” of Dalits so much so that when his sons throw a Dalit boy in the well, Dhaval’s concern is for purifying the well rather than the well-being of the boy. He is deferential to the old and blind village priest (Dhritiman Chatterjee), who provides religious legitimacy to his thoughts. Behind the mask of a pious priest is a twisted slimy character who has his own sexual fantasies and who does not hesitate to use his position to exploit the woman in his benefactor’s household.
Dhaval has no compunction in sleeping with the maid of his house Dhaniya (Tannishtha Chatterjee), though he does not let her son physically touch him. Dhaniya uses her relationship with the landlord to get a better deal for her sons. Growing in the same environment, Dhaval’s sons too, have no value for Dalit life. The women in the household, consisting of Dhaval’s mother (Swatilekha Sengupta), wife (Arpita Pal) and daughter Mona (Ena Saha) have no voice.
Dhaniya’s older son Bajrangi (Riddhi Sen) has accepted his position in the social hierarchy and bows to Dhaval, so he is sent to school in the city. Slightly younger, his fourteen year old brother Santu (Soham Maitra) is rebellious, refuses to touch Dhaval’s feet and is not sent to school. Maybe due to his lack of literacy, his mind is relatively free of the shackles of caste. He refuses to bend in front of Dhaval’s sons who bully Bajrangi. He dares to like Dhaval’s daughter and has his brother write a love letter for him. This one act of giving the letter to Mona brings unimagined tragedy on the two brothers.
The film starts on a serious note and stays that way throughout its running time of 1hr and 28minutes. The story is crisp and the film has been paced well, keeping the viewers hooked to the screen. Acting by all the leads is exceptional. Sanjay Suri’s restrained arrogance, the camaraderie between the brothers and Dhritiman’s lecherous priest are characters that viewers won’t forget even after leaving the theater. The cinematography beautifully captures the mood of the film. Last but not the least, credit goes to the screenplay and able direction by Bikas Mishra for keeping the film honest. No effort has been made to make the film more “marketable” by adding elements of melodrama or songs at the expense of the quality of the film.
Chauranga is a must watch, if for nothing but to know there exists an India sinking in the cast quagmire that needs rescuing. Awareness, they say, is the first step towards a solution.
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Rating : 4/5
Starring: Sanjay Suri, Soham Maitra, Riddhi Sen, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Swatilekha Sengupta, Ena Saha, Arpita Pal
Director: Bikas Mishra