‘Chauranga’: Message lost in transit (IANS Review – **)

Film: “Chauranga”; Cast: Sanjay Suri, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Anshuman Jha, Soham Maitra, Dhritiman Chatterjee and Riddhi Sen; Directed by: Bikas Ranjan Mishra; Ratings: **

“Chauranga” is the story of young Dalit boy Santu and his aspirations to become educated and improve his life. Instead, he only gets to look after a pig all day, because of the rigid caste system prevalent in his village.

Writer-director Bikas Ranjan Mishra has picked up a pertinent issue of caste system and through his film depicts how in their daily lives Dalits are suppressed, meted out unfair treatment and have no right to better their lives.

Soham Maitra as Santu effortlessly delivers a power-packed performance as the rebel Dalit boy. Whether it is at the futility of his love for the Zamindar’s daughter or the fact that trains do not stop in his village as it is too insignificant a place, Santu’s angst and frustration are palpable.

Supporting him adeptly is Riddhi Sen, as his older brother Bajrangi, who too is a natural in front of the camera and expresses himself proficiently as an actor.

Tannistha Chatterjee as Dhaniya, the duo’s mother, carries off her character of a Dalit woman with the right amount of attitude and subservience. She obviously understands that bowing down to the Zamindar is the best option and constantly urges her sons to do so.

Sanjay Suri, sadly, as the upper caste Zamindar, in a secret liaison with the Dalit woman Dhaniya, offers nothing to his role, delivering a flat and insipid performance.

Dhritiman Chatterjee renders a strong portrayal as the blind priest who exudes power.

Performances apart, “Chauranga”, laced with a powerful message, is delivered in a somewhat convoluted manner, through a haphazard screenplay.

Although the characters of the two brothers are well-etched, there are too many scattered, incomplete incidents in the film, trying to forcefully drive home the message of the frustrations of the Dalits and their ignominy at the hands of the upper caste, giving the film the feel of a documentary on Dalits. The drama quotient is missing. The use of metaphors further lends an aura of unwarranted pretense.

Ramanuj Dutta’s cinematography is good in parts. While the village scenes and ethos are beautifully captured, the camera movement at times is shaky and unsteady, making it look a tad amateurish. Also, the constant usage of uncalled-for close-ups and mid-shots, mars the viewing experience.

The title of the film, “Chauranga”, which means four colours, does not justify itself properly. Equally limp is the film in its ability to deliver a strong message. The slow pace and lack of high octane action, leaves it looking like a slice of the Dalit life.

The sound handled by Arun Nambiar and Tanmay Das is brilliant and probably the highlight of the film.

The film fails to leave an impact on the viewers.

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