Chauranga Movie Review



In one sequence in Chauranga, a Dalit boy strays into the vicinity of a village shrine. Two minions of the local landlord spot him, chase him and push him into a well.

When news of the incident reaches the callous zamindar, he spares no thought for the badly wounded outcaste.

Instead, prompted by the temple priest, he frets over the need to purify the water in the well. His priorities are shockingly clear.

This is the abhorrent social cesspool in which first-time writer-director Bikas Ranjan Mishra situates his stark, searing story of caste violence and religious orthodoxy.

It is a man-made hellhole where a low-caste boy stands only a marginally better chance of survival than a hapless animal.

A little later in Chauranga, a harmless pig is mercilessly beaten to death by the sightless priest for showing up outside the latter’s home.

Neither the aforementioned human victim of hate nor the ill-fated pet pig is the fulcrum of this disturbing narrative about blighted lives, crushed dreams and unceremonious deaths.

They are, however, symptomatic of how terribly wrong things are in this unnamed, culturally indeterminate village over which an upper caste brute wields untrammeled power.

The story’s nebulous setting serves the purpose of underlining the universality of patriarchal and caste-driven violence in India’s rural badlands.

Chauranga fuses the true story of a Bihar boy who was killed in 2008 for writing a love letter and the director’s own reminiscences of growing up in an upper caste family in a small village in Hazaribagh, now in Jharkhand.

Seething anger courses through the film, but its expression is muted for the most part.
Even though the scenario is primed to evoke repulsion and horror, the rage does not ratchet up the film’s pitch.

Hope lingers amid deep despair, and escape, if not outright liberation, remains a possibility for even the most marginalized and vulnerable.

Mishra’s storytelling is sure-handed and even-keeled and, therefore, all the more telling in its impact.

The director receives significant support from cameraman Ramanuj Dutta in creating sharp contrasts between a sleepy, seemingly innocuous community and its dark innards in which evil thrives and engulfs all.

Much of the physical and emotional violence in Chauranga occurs either off-screen or in the shadows, but that does not make it any less disconcerting.

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