by Rishikesh Nagdawane, Kanad Jambhulkar and Vicky Nandgaye

jhund

The film is inspired by the former sports teacher Vijay Barse from Hislop College. It is a socio-pic (see Mangesh Dahiwale’s wall[1]) because it combines Vijay Borade’s (Amitabh Bacchan) life and mission with the lives and sufferings of city-slum young people. As a result, it can be viewed as a socio-pic. The lives of slum dwellers, particularly the few young ones, are depicted subtly so that many young minds like ours can relate to it. Nagraj Popatrao Manjule aka Anna is known for his refined and humorous delineation of complicated concepts such as Nation, Merit, Caste and others.

Representing the depressed class in his latest movie ‘Jhund’, the depiction of the culture of slums and their deprivation by the systemic inequality and the social structure, Anna has succeeded to portray (through drone shot) the life of youths constructed by the “WALL”, as the ‘Idea of India’ questioned by showing the metaphoric as well as real ‘wall’ of segregation between the slum of Gaddigodam and St John’s High school. The wall appears to be unfriendly to the reality of slum society. The shot seems delightful at first glance, yet it is also unsettling to the audience. It may provide class lenses (have and have-nots). Other elements, however, are obscured under the veil of the class lens.

Representation and Dialect

Coming from the same city, it is imperative for us to write about the dialectical representation of ‘Jhund’. Although this movie is in Hindi, the dialect which is used is Nagpuri Hindi comprising Nagpuri Marathi words with the peculiar accent of Hindi devoid of knowing its origin. The Nagpuri Marathi and Hindi accent is spoken by Bahujans of the Nagpur district have always been deemed as ‘tapori’ or impure language by the elite Marathi population of Maharashtra and often regarded the Puneri or Sanskritized Marathi as a pure and mainstream language of media, literature, and central to the Maharashtra region which has led to the ‘protected exclusion’ of these common dialects from all these spheres. The film also features Gondi, a tribal language. While the previous project (Fandry) showed Jabya’s family communicating in the Kaikadi dialect.

Manjule has done justice to the dialect by giving it raw in conversations, in addition, he has not tried to reform their language by some heroic methods of reform, he portrayed the life and language of these youths in this movie as an intrinsic part of their expression in ontological terms. ‘Jhund’ raises the question of the hegemony of elite class language over the dialects and their preconception of the same. This delineation of dialect in mainstream Bollywood films has left a mark upon the representation of subaltern groups.

When Directors intend to portray the reality of any social group in their art forms, invariably they fail to dispense justice to the characters and overall film. This is unlikely in the movies of Nagraj Manjule, his methodology of filmmaking is similar to the great Italian film director Vittorio De Sica where he casts relevant characters from non-acting background, but the peculiarity of these actors and actresses is that their real-life resembles the story and the characters[2]. Similar methodology can be seen in all three movies of Nagraj Manjule, Fandry, Sairat, and Jhund where he casts relevant lead actors and actresses from non-acting backgrounds who are coming from the Bahujan groups. Thus, this unique method of filmmaking of Manjule is representing the depressed class and castes in mainstream Bollywood films. Moreover, it is creating the space for this new kind of genre of films.

Dialogues and Songs (of Dissent)

The dialect and the dialogues are relatable as most of Nagpur’s slum people talk in the dialect spoken by the characters. In one of the dialogues, Ritik (Kartik Ukey) asks “Bharat matlab” (What is India?) and another guy replies “Bharat matlab apna gaddigodam” (India means our Gaddigodam). It does not imply that the children in the neighborhood are unaware of what India means. It is a fiery rebuttal to a common narrative about nationalism, patriotism, and the idea of India. Another dialogue by Babu, “Ghar me nhi khane ko cinthol hona nahane ko” (Not having food at home, having synthol for bathing), reveals how the inferiority complex has been so entrenched in the psyche of slum dwellers that they have become accustomed to it.

Razia (Razia Kazi), a mother of three girl children, is passionate about football, demonstrates courage, and inspires others. She is phenomenal in her resistance to her husband’s (Bhushan Manjule) violence. With anger and frustration in her eyes, she aggrieved, “Tu kya meko talak denga me khud teko talak deti hu…….Talak, Talak, Talak” (Who the hell are you to give me divorce, I myself will divorce with you. …..divorce, divorce, divorce) is an empowering and courageous act. However, her husband eventually changed his mind and assured Borade sir that he would pay for Razia’s participation in the ‘Georgia 2019 Slum Soccer World Cup’. In yet another case, Monica Gedam’s (Rinku Rajguru) trouble and hardship is a reminder of the everyday struggle of Tribal people to obtain documents such as Aadhaar Cards, Voting Cards, Ration Cards, Passports, and so on. Moreover, Ankush Masram (Ankush Gedam) in one of his conversations with his friends in the vicinity of Police station grieved,  “Abe mei sudharna chah raha hu to sudharne kyu nahi dere meko” (Now I want to reform myself, so why aren’t they letting me reform). The dialogue demonstrates that Ankush wants to fix things, that he has an opportunity to improve his life, and that he aspires to get out of his predicament. Other factors, however, are impeding his progress.

The four songs in the movie “laat Maar”, “Badal se Dosti”, “Lafda zala”, “Aaya ye Jhund Hei” with powerful music and lyrics, evokes a wide range of emotions. The lyrics of the song “Badal se Dosti” depict the harsh reality of city slum life and their aspirations to escape the monotony of it. The song encourages us to look up at the sky, hold our heads high, and not be ashamed of our identity. Another song, ‘Laat Maar,’ evokes different emotions with intelligible lyrics. With strong music, the ‘Lafda Zala’ song reminds us of the Bhim Jaynti (Ambedkar) celebration.  We cannot stop moving our legs while listening to the song.

Entertainment Industry: When Seen through Eyes of the Marginalised

Anna is known to unravel the dark side of society that hardly takes attention of established big houses of Bollywood industry, which has been engaged in making love drama but refrain from revealing the social reality. Nagraj is famously known for his humorous and sarcastic way of filmmaking that set him apart from other filmmakers. His last assignments (Fandry and Sairat) showcased the bitter reality of a caste based social system that perhaps provides space or acceptance for romantic relations between higher and lower strata of the society. The fact that caste-based prejudice exists is not a mystery among renowned filmmakers. However, the courage and assertion requisite to present truth through the mass media can be drawn from the works and ideologies (equality, liberty, fraternity, justice, and caste annihilation) of social reformers such as Phule, Shahu, Ambedkar, Birsa, Periyar, Ayyankali, and others.

Although the entertainment industry is meant to entertain the audience, it has the potential to showcase the reality and research based projects that may question the system. The history of Indian cinema is more than a century old (the first movie was Raja Harishchandra, 1913). Nevertheless, for the stakeholders, money making is the only concern with entertainment where lead characters engage in endorsing Brand products while the topics pertinent to questions of Bahujans inter alia Dalits, Tribes, OBCs, and Minorities never become subjects of mainstream drama. In the recent past only several filmmakers from Maharashtra and Southern industry began to echo their assertion through this biggest mass medium.

One could argue that there is insufficient or no representation of Bahujans in the industry, finding it difficult to prepare flicks like Jhund. The film not only fulfilled the requirements of entertainment without degrading the characters’ dignity or that of any gender, but it also addressed the aggressive culture of Bahujans who are constantly confronted with identity crises and seek a respectable way to make their life meaningful. Anna apparently demonstrated through the project how the system is fundamentally biased against this segment of society, with little efforts made to mobilize them upwardly. Time and again, the Director proves the industry is not at mercy of established names since casts can be picked from society (non-acting background as stated above). The cinematic expression is beyond the acting, dialogues, appearance, constructed idea of beauty, and awards (Oscar).

A person from the slum or the most remote area has comparable potential and talent if given an equal opportunity. Unlike other films, the film not only gives Bahujans appropriate representation through diverse characters, but it also gives justice to each aspect of the film. Through this film, Manjule clarified his intentions as he entered the world of drama, which may be keen to show elite culture that seldomly finds any societal questions. The industry also does seem to please the interests of certain segments, which includes theirs as well. However, Anna’s critically sound direction methodology roared to deconstruct and demolish the notions of the imaginary world showcased through their god and goddess projects which are afraid to challenge the erection of temples anywhere with false manifestations of their idols.

Rishikesh Nagdawane

(MA in Rural Development, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur)

Kanad Jambhulkar

(BA from Hislop College, RTM Nagpur University)

Vicky Nandgaye

(PhD Scholar in Management and Labour Studies, TISS, Mumbai)

 

References

Alone, Y.S. (2017). Caste Life Narratives, Visual Representation, And Protected Ignorance. Biography 40(1), 140-169. doi:10.1353/bio.2017.0007.

Cardullo, R. J. (2016). Italian Neorealism, Vittorio De Sica, and Bicycle Thieves. In Teaching Sound Film (pp. 39-45). SensePublishers, Rotterdam.

[1]. Accessed on 15.03.2022 – https://www.facebook.com/536779201/posts/10161808848624202/?app=fbl

[2]. See film – Bicycle Thieves (1948).


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