Films about discrimination in general are hard to watch, but not this slow-paced crime-drama by debutante Bikas Ranjan Mishra.
Santu (Soham Maitra) and Bajrangi (Riddhi Sen) are two teenager of a Dalit caste who live with their mother, Dhaniya (Tannistha Chatterjee), in a village dominated by upper caste self-proclaimed politician, Dhaval (Sanjay Suri). As a perfect hypocrite, Dhaval preaches caste discrimination to the outer world, but stoops inside Dhaniya's sari when it comes to his sexual needs, worsening his matrimony in the process. While Bajrangi goes to town to study, Santu roams around during the day observing the departure and arrival of Mona, Dhava;s'd pretty daughter. The scene is rather disturbed as the lower caste families are oppressed and exploited by the upper caste people - the likes of Dhaval and his highly volatile supporters like Raghu (Anshuman Jha).
Nothing substantial happens in the first 60 minutes, as the only things you will see is Santu playing with his contraption, hanging from a tree, ogling at Mona and possibly her developing breasts, whose intricate information he derived from Bajrangi's high school Science textbook. He plans to profess his love to her, and assigns his brother to write a love letter, without realizing that it would come back to bite him in the eye. The focus is largely on Santu's daily inconsequential escapades and Dhaval's parents who seem to be characters straight out of a religious book. There's also this obsession over pigs and their kidnapping and the speculation of them giving birth to farrow, which seems somehow tied to the people's idol-worshiping habits.
Towards the ending, things take a serious turn and the real message starts getting transmitted. That Dalits are oppressed by the dominants by the hour, which is also evident from the closing epigraph.
Tannishtha Chatterjee is wonderful, and I declare her the actress of the year 2016. After showcasing her acting chops in UnIndian and Parched which released this year, I can surely tell her that she's one of the leading actresses in the independent cinema scene. Sanjay Suri and the kids do a good job, but they more or like do what they were told. Supporting cast is fine.
The theme is very relevant to the current times, but I'm afraid the message gets blurred as it seeps through the cracks that are gaps in the film due to the slow pace.
BOTTOM LINE: Bikas Ranjan Mishra's "Chauranga" could be a real depiction of the multi-colored lives we witness in this cruel world, but what it really is is a stream of colors that have become dull due to over-strain. Watch it on a free Netflix plan.
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? NO