Fandry: The Power of Storytelling
On the face of it, ‘Fandry’, Nagraj Manjule’s directorial debut, is an adolescent love story set in a remote village in Maharashtra. Jabya, a 14 year old Dalit boy falls in love with a beautiful upper caste girl in his school. Jabya sneaks stolen glances at Shalu, entranced by her beauty as she walks with her friends or sits in the classroom. He dreams of them together, in love.
Jabya tries to distance himself from his father, a lower caste man who does the dirty-work in the village that nobody else will do. The most demeaning job is to chase out wild pigs or ‘fandry’ from the village. Upper caste people consider ‘fandry’ too dirty to touch themselves.
Jabya doesn’t identify with the limiting constructs of the caste system. He doesn’t want to touch pigs, he dreams of a better life, he wants to study, he wants to buy nice clothes and impress Shalu. He believes he is good enough to be Shalu’s love.
The reality is very different from his dreams. The repeated ridicule of arrogant upper caste people wear him down. How long can this self-respecting child take the indiginty?
Fandry portrays the reality of caste prejudice in India today, through a beautifully told story. The visual beauty of the Maharashtra landscape captured by Vikram Amladi, the authentic performances of all the actors and the heart wrenching background score by Alokananda Dasgupta, come together perfectly to create a cinematic jewel, a compelling story of great power and simplicity.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nagraj Manjule, while he was in LA for IFFLA 2014, where his film won the Jury Grand Prize for narrative feature film. I was moved by his simplicity, clarity and genuineness, “I just told a story that I know, a story from my own reality. Its not so much that I had to make a film, its that I had to tell this story, that I have lived.” My next post will be about our interview.