Sairat: Love in the time of honour killings

People who live by myth, magic and miracle have a serious problem with reality. Last week I was stopped by a fellow morning walker at Shivaji Park with a deeply troubled question.

“Have you seen Sairat?”

“I’m seeing it tomorrow. Why?”

“No. They are saying this kind of thing shouldn’t be shown.”

“They? Thing?”

“People. Love between youngsters.”

“Oh? Why?”

“It’ll spoil our children.”

“Like Bobby did? Or Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak?”

My interlocutor laughed uncertainly. “Anyway, we’ll talk after you’ve seen it.”

“Have you seen it?”


I saw Sairat (Wild), scripted and directed by Nagraj Manjule, on Saturday; and simultaneously understood why “they, the people” who had turned Bobby into an all-time hit, found the depiction of young love in this film so disturbing. Bobby was also a teenage romance, interrupted only temporarily by the goons sent after the young couple by the boy’s wealthy dad. But soon enough the wealthy dad realised he loved his son more than his status; and all turned out well with a little help from coincidence and melodrama.

Besides the fact that Bobby was located in dreamland, there was another, even more significant reason why “they, the people” fell in love with it. Sure, the young couple ran away and all that; but the wealthy dad’s blessings at the end proved that the film-maker wasn’t out to disturb familial and social power structures. Young lovers cannot be allowed to be happy on their own terms. See what happens to them when they try. In Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak they die. As they must, to ensure that the social apple cart is not upset.

Unlike these romances, Sairat, while using every feature of the masala film genre to entertain, dares to be real. The heady romance between Parshya (Akash Thosar), the son of a poor fisherman, and Archi (Rinku Rajguru), the daughter of a politically powerful landlord, begins in the autonomous space granted to young people today by college and the cell phone. But when their feelings are inevitably translated into action, their dream world crashes and reality takes over. In the real world, caste matters more than parental love and no individual act is confined in its effect to the doers alone. The individual is part of a complex network of relationships. So when Parshya and Archi run away, the power structures that hold their society together are threatened. As a result, Parshya’s family is ostracised and forced to leave the village by the caste panchayat; and Archi’s father, his social-political clout challenged, swears vengeance.

Even as individuals, Archi, and to some extent Parshya, must confront and deal with the realities of their past and their present. Wealth, status and a doting family once gave Archi the kind of power that only men normally enjoy. She could tell off a cousin for beating up Parshya. She could ride bikes, horses and tractors. She could take the lead in setting up a first date. But unprotected by wealth and family in Hyderabad, where the couple find themselves, Archi must pull her weight by working inside and outside the home. Suddenly she is not a pseudo male but just another woman, fair game for predatory men. Lastly, she must get used to the sights and stinks of an urban slum. Sorry young lady. This is how India’s millions live.

While Parshya is used to manual labour and its attendant stinks, he has never faced the insecurity of a working wife who is friendly with male colleagues. However, through it all, their love grows stronger, empowering them to make a good life for themselves. Meanwhile they’ve forgotten another reality which hasn’t forgotten them. It catches up with them and gives the film an ending that is as inevitable as it is shocking.

Clearly, what “they, the people” find disturbing is the idea that young people’s love, even when it defies caste and class divides, can mature into a force that allows them to withstand challenges and live and thrive without their elders’ blessings. As we grow comfortable with this idea, Manjule kicks us awake with the viciousness of the other reality where actions fuelled by hatred are morally justified.

But while “they, the people” grumble, our spirits are buoyed by the sheer cinematic excellence of Sairat, with its clever script, superb cinematography (Sudhakar Reddy) and gorgeous music track (Ajay-Atul). Although Rajguru has won all the plaudits for acting, Thosar and his friends, played by Tanaji Galgunde and Arbaz Shaikh are totally endearing. Go see it.

Published On : 11-05-2016