Chauranga: Reel to real

Bikash Ranjan Mishra’s first film, Chauranga brings a Dalit hero in the mainstream. After the release of Court, this is the first film this year which is ‘reel but too real’.

Minimalistic in approach and not high on ‘drama’, the projection of day-to-day violence against Dalits is an eye opener to how prevalent the caste system is in modern India.

Mishra tells Metrolife that this is a story from his life. “The narrative is personal. It depicts the lives of the people I have known, and the film is very honest. I have been sincere with the location as well. Cinematically too the film’s backdrop is like the place I have seen,” says Mishra.

Mishra himself comes from a Brahmin family from a village in Bihar, (presently in Jharkhand). In his childhood not only his fellow villagers but his family members too rejected the existence of Dalits as humans. He says that the sensitivity he has towards the issue is out of his own learning and experience.

“My closest friend was a Dalit, we went to the same school. We shared meals and everything, and people mocked me. But children don’t know any such differences; they are only made aware by the society,” he adds.

He explains that the film is no ‘docufiction’ but he has used the “emotions” of the people as the reference point. Chauranga, is a multi-layered film, it is about each character of the film. The teenage Dalit boy, Santu (Sohan Maitra), his elder brother, Bajrangi (Riddhi Sen), his mother, Dhaniya (Tannishtha Chatterjee), and also the zamindar, Dhaval (Sanjay Suri).

The story has been in his mind for the longest time, but the trigger to write the script and to start working on it came only in 2010. “A newspaper article said about a Dalit boy in Bihar getting killed brutally for writing a love letter to an upper caste girl. This was one of the main catalyst,” says Mishra.

In the film too, he shows Santu’s adoration for Dhaval’s daughter, and his elder brother helps him write a letter to express himself. When Dhaval finds out about the letter, he suspects the elder brother and grants the boy’s killing. Santu, who is also under attack, manages to run from the scene of violence and catches a train (to an unknown station). There is nothing to look back at, as his (Santu’s) mother, Dhaniya is also missing for many days.

“The first draft of the script was done in two years and the film was ready by 2014,” says Mishra. He says that he has been lucky as he didn’t have to “run around” a lot with the script. And he is also grateful for a theatrical release in his home town in Ranchi.

“Although the film is pertinent for all audiences, but it is very important that people in remote areas of the country also watch the film. Every filmmaker is delighted with International awards and audience, but to have your film screened back home is a different feeling all together, and nothing can make up for that,” he says.

Chauranga has won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Film at 13th Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2015 (IFFLA) and the Golden Gateway of India for Best Film (India Gold) at 16th Mumbai Film Festival 2014.

Mishra expresses his concern for the high price of the ticket (Rs 350 to 450) in theatres. “If the prices are so high then general people will refrain from watching the film. Independent films are not on the same ground as big productions like Dilwale or Bajirao Mastani they are not so common yet. So, to make them popular and the ticket prices should be kept low,” says Mishra.

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