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Review: Kachru Mazha Bapa/My Father’s Name was Garbage - A Homage to the Dalits and their struggles!

Movie Title: Kachru Mazha Bapa (English: My Father's name was Garbage)

Writen by: Kachru Bansode, Mukesh Jadhav and Archana Deshmukh.

Directed by: Mukesh Jadhav

Produced by: Motion Media Arts

Associate creative producer: Natalie Millar

Genre: Biopic / social

Language: Marathi

Subtitles: English

Cast: Arun Nalawade, Aasavari Joshi, Nandita Patkar/Dhuri, Rajendra Shisatkar, Abhay Rane, Anand Kekan, Kalpita Rane, Medhaj Pawade, Preet Lele, Harshad Patl Shinde

Photography: Rajesh Joshi, Music: Monty Sharma, Editor: Aseem Sinha, Choreography: Seema Desai

Rating: 4.5/5

In one of the scene in the film, 12-year-old protagonist is trying to pull a fully loaded handcart, while nearby shopkeepers are intently listening to the radio… something important is on… the boy senses it, but is focused to put all his strength to pull the handcart. Suddenly people jump with joy... hail the victory of the motherland; India finally is freed from the Britishers. The boy has a big smile on his face, the word freedom and victory gives him some more strength to pull the heavy cart, he carries on with his daily chore of carrying heavy loads to earn a single meal for the day. Did something change for the boy named Kachru at this point? did he get free from the age old oppression in the name of caste, or is it still the battle that he has to fight on his own?

The film Kachru Mazha Bapa - a true story about the life of Kachru Bansode, who belongs to so called low caste, is loaded with so many subtle instances of discrimination, oppression, repression, subjugation and suppression that one faces in a caste-Hindu society in India since ages, yet the story is not about it… it is much bigger than that, it is about the resolve of a person to fight the oppression and discrimination, not by picking up arms, but arming his family with books!

You must be wondering why would someone name their child Kachru, which means garbage… but when thousand years of systemic oppression is done in such a way that a certain section of people are made to feel and live worse than garbage… that taking on respectable names is also deemed crime, probably, that is why a village elder recommends Umaji to name his son Kachar to save him from the wrath of the goddess, as four of his sons died soon after birth. Therefore, when the mother is asked to name her newborn… she lovingly christens him Kachar or Kachru – meaning garbage or filth!

The name of the protagonist Kachru/Garbage signifies the deep-rooted caste discrimination and oppression prevalent in the Caste-Hindu society in india… but yet, the film Kachru Mazha Bapa does not take the route of making a direct comment on casteism or the evils associated with it… but it unassumingly tells the story of Kachar and his life surrounded by poverty and gloom, but the darkness that surrounds Kachru is unable to kill his resolve for a better life for his children. he along with his wife carve ways for them to lead a better life.

What better homage could be for Kachru Bansode, for the sacrifices that he made to empower his family through education, than for his children to produce a film on his life and his struggles. It started with the Bansode family looking to tell their father Kachru’s story in a documentary format, but when the director Mukesh Jadhav heard the story, he thought it was much better suited as a film. Jadhav was right, the two hours twenty minutes long film does capture the life and struggles of Kachru in a compelling manner. Jadhav is able to bring Kachru’s story from 1927 to 2001 to life, effectively creating realistic set-up for each era in an adroit style.

The mood of each decade is created impressively… the feel of 1920s to 40s India, where caste discrimination is practiced as a matter of right is heartbreaking to see. Post 1940s the resistance to caste discrimination and understanding of one’s rights is shown in an understated manner. The changing point in Kachru’s life is when he attends one of India’s leading politician and social reformer Dr Ambedkar’s rally, where Ambedkar stresses that there is nothing else but education that can uplift the downtrodden; Thus, the 50s to 70s era in the film capture the socialist trajectories, especially the influence of Dr BR Ambedkar’s vision of dalit (downtrodden Hindu low-castes) emancipation through social justice can be seen in the way Kachru and his wife Anshe gather strength to empower their seven children through education. The film in a way pays ovation to Ambedkar’s campaign against social discrimination of the dalits, and for enabling them through edification.

The story moves in a non-linear fashion, when Kachru’s school-going daughter is asked to write about her father, which makes her to prod her father about his story, starting with why can’t he change his name, as it is quite shameful. Thus the journey to capture the life and travails of Kachru starts. From being stopped to drink water from the water-tank of the upper castes, barred from attending school, or being treated as an ‘untouchable’, to the realization that he needs to work hard to uplift himself and his family and finally the way he goes about working towards that aim.

The film beautifully portrays Kachru and his his father Umaji's relationship, but it is the relation between Kachru and his elder sister Khirana Bai that is the soul of the film. In Khirana we find a woman who is strong willed, who senses the discrimination that they are subjected to, but more for Kachru, and at times feels like rebelling against the system. She is the protector, who stands against her husband to make sure Kachru is taken care of properly. She the voice of sanity in the grim world of Kachru. The brother-sister relationship in a way also represents the marginalized voice of the dalit women, who are worst impacted due to the double oppression (being an untouchable and a woman). Thus Umaji’s desire to have a son, when he already has four daughters, speaks volume the way girls were treated in the society. Yet, in Khirana we see a resilient female, that inspires Kachru to make sure he treats all his children alike and no wonder the story is driven forward by Kachru’s daughter.

In recent years, Marathi cinema has taken a lead in telling stories of the underprivileged and their struggles in simple yet evocative approach, Kachru Mazha Bapa takes the work of Marathi cinema forward with a true story, treated in the earthiest manner, narrated in the most earnest way and filmed with a sense of dedication to Kachru’s life. Jadhav is able to connect with the audience with deft direction and adept storytelling. Minimalist editing approach by Aseem Sinha make the scenes flow in a natural manner. Each cast member of the film brings a realistic feel to the film, Arun Nalawade, Aasavari Joshi, Nandita Patkar/Dhuri have brought the characters to life and should be applauded for their acting skills. Child actor, Medhaj Pawade is brilliant as the young Kachru, in many of the scenes his stoic silence and wry smile conveys much more effectively. Other cast members, Rajendra Shisatkar, Abhay Rane, Anand Kekan, Kalpita Rane, Medhaj Pawade, Preet Lele, Harshad Patl Shinde do a great job with their roles.

Kachru Mazha Bapa was premiered at the RMIT Indian Film Festival in Melbourne on 4th December 2016.

The film raises many questions about the discrimination that the Dalits face in modern India, and Kachru’s family becomes symbolic of their quest to be educated and enabled to lead a life of dignity… films such as Kachru Mazha Bapa commends the struggles that the Dalits of India have gone through and are still going through.It is time to celebrate their achievements and hard work, especially in Indian cinema, which unfortunately has not been able to do justice to the vast majority of the downtrodden whose stories of struggle still need to be told to a larger audience.

Associate Creative Producer Natalie Millar presenting Kachru Mazha Bapa at the RMIT Indian Film Festival 2016


About the reviewer:

Dr Vikrant Kishore is a leading film academic, filmmaker, photographer, author and a journalist; he has more than 25 documentaries and corporate films to his credit. He has organized various international conferences, film festivals and seminars to popularize Indian cinema. He has been a jury member in various film festivals. Dr Kishore was the producer of An Australian Film Initiative’s Australian Film Festival of India (2014-15). Dr Kishore is the author of the book “From Real to Reel: Folk Dances of India in Bollywood Cinema”, published by UNESCO-Apnieve, his co-edited book “Bollywood and its Other(s)” has been published by Palgrave Macmillan. His recent co-edited book – Salaam Bollywood has been published by Routledge.

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