It’s Valentines’ Day. We’re going for our dose of romance, painted bright fuchsia, steeped in sugar-water and sprinkled with rose-petals. But there’s a Marathi film, a love story in theaters this V-Day that’s painted rustic brown, steeped in sweat and sprinkled with dust. And I’d exchange a thousand pinky pink romances to watch a film like this.
Now, don’t think this is a review. Because it isn’t.
To put it frankly, I don’t think I have the ‘aukaat’ to critique a film like ‘Fandry’. And I won’t.
Fandry is a love story – between tradition and aspiration. Fandry is a flirtation between the modern day rural India that romances tradition and a mindset that cares to break free of it. Fandry is many things but mainly Fandry is the story of Jabya Mane – born to an untouchable family, dark-skinned and poor – who carries a torch for the comparatively rich, fair-skinned, higher caste Shalu. His father struggles to make enough money to pay dowry for Jabya’s sister, while his mother convinces Jabya to help the family out in menial jobs with a promise of new clothes. Jabya spends time after school chasing a certain kind of a bird with his pal Pirya. Meanwhile, pigs running wild in the village, causing a menace to the higher castes.
Jabya’s world is very different from that of his family – divided between the life he leads in school and the one that is expected of him as a child of the untouchables. He revolts when called kalya (blackie), he refuses to remove a piglet from a well (only untouchables are allowed to touch pigs) and tries his best to hide his life from his school friends.
In the middle of all this, he finds a friend in the village drunk, also a dreamer (brilliantly played by the director himself) who shows him hope.
In Fandry, the director tells the story through the dialogue and actors but what is fascinating is that he uses objects, landscapes, animals and birds to build a thoroughly engaging film experience.
Nagraj Manjule’s voice as a filmmaker is very distinct, exciting and vibrant. Nagraj extracts measured, precise performances from seasoned actors like Kishor Kadam & from debutants like Somnath Avghade alike. The influence of world cinema on Fandry is quite obvious, and it adds a touch of global appeal to the story that is based deep in the heart of Maharashtra.
When the film ends, it only ends on the screen, igniting thoughts in your mind. The film brings you face to face with the reality of the caste system in a hard-hitting manner but there’s entertainment too.
Pain, anguish, aspiration, desire and hope form the soul of Fandry, and it will take me a few re-watches to take in the film completely. A film like Fandry comes along rarely. And when it does, it must be watched and celebrated.
Go watch right now. Fandry released on the 14th Feb in theaters across Maharashtra and has English subtitles. GO WATCH NOW.
Review in motion: