Since the time we saw Nagraj Manjule’s debut feature ‘Fandry’, we have been shouting out from rooftop that it’s a terrific debut and a must watch. Click here to read our recco post. This week, Fandry is releasing outside Maharashtra, and with English subtites.
The show details – Date: February 28 to March 6
PVR MGF Mall 9:10 PM
DT Cinemas Vasant Kunj: 3: 30 PM
PVR Indore 5:00 PM
After the film’s release and the acclaim it got all over, Nagraj wrote a piece for Maharashtra Times. Much thanks to @GoanSufi who came up with the idea to translate it in English for wider reach, took the permission, and did it for us. Do watch the film if you haven’t seen it yet. And then read it.
Now that Fandry has released, I’m reminiscing about all those incidents that are linked with it. These memories have accumulated over a long period of time. The very moment someone mentions Fandry, experiences from childhood to that of growing up years, it all flashes before my eyes. As I was growing up, a strange sense of fear, realisation of the under-privileged life was always in my mind, all by default. I was made aware of my limits since then. I would go to watch Ramayana, and realise that seating arrangements were fixed for everyone. While watching King Ram from a corner, the invisible “No Entry” signage that was in my mind, it would become bold and clear. The surrounding system was up in arms highlighting my deprived social status.
I don’t exactly remember when my innocent courage took a backseat and I was made aware of my limitations at every step because of my caste. I never realised when this impotent maturity became a part of my life. Whenever I uttered my name, or my mother’s, or even make a reference to my caste while filling forms in school, the class would break into a faint yet violent giggle. To avoid such embarrassment, I would walk up to the teacher and whisper my name and caste into his ears. I picked up this habit when I was in primary school. When one’s identity becomes the reason behind his inferiority complex, he has nothing more to say. I don’t remember exactly when it came to a point that I was afraid of telling my own name to others. All I carried along was a sense of fear that it would be criminal of me to do so.
When my father would address my friends as “saheb”, “sarkar”, my expectations of friendship, equality would seem completely unreasonable. If someone even loosened up the noose on our neck, we would celebrate that as our freedom. But that didn’t stop me from dreaming. Even in this gated social setup, dreams would find their own little ways. A simple jeans pant, a sweet dish during the festival, electricity connection at our house, a pair of chappal – these all felt like dreams that could come true. The system I was living in, it would stack up these little wishes and desires, and make them appear as dreams that are out of my reach. But dreams don’t have labels of caste and religion. They express their desires in most innocent manner which gives rise to a chaotic struggle between these dreams and our own inferiority complex. Sadly, the latter always wins over the former.
When I entered college, an old nightmare was in front of me all over again. I had expected that at least in college I would be treated with some dignity. In my first year, we had a story by S. M. Matey in which the protagonist curses the baddie as “Hey Kalyaa Vadaaraa!” (Vadaar is a dalit tribe considered as untouchables, while Kalyaa refers to dark skinned man. It’s difficult to translate the heinous undertone of this phrase). I had this habit of reading through all the lessons and stories before the course would start. When I came across this sentence in Matey’s story, I decided not to remain present in the class when this story would be discussed. I bunked classes for a week, and thought that the professor must’ve finished discussing this story by then. To my worst surprise, the professor started with the story the same day I chose to remain present in the class. Not to mention, when sir recited those lines, everyone looked at me trying hard to control their laughter. I felt an inane need to miraculously disappear from where my seat like a God could do.
A man starts expecting such miracles to happen at times of such depressing encounters in life. Fandry reminds me of these demoralising episodes. It reminds of the haunting space called school. It reminds of those innocent dreams, it reminds me of the dreams that were squashed and crushed by the might of the caste identity I carried throughout.
“Fandry means what?” is a question that I’ve been asked numerous times. And I’ve avoided telling its meaning in one simple word. Fandry is a word used by a tribe that lives around us, it’s in their dialect. We neither know of this dialect, nor about the tribe. We are unaware of their lives, their dreams, the pleasures and perils of their existence. When you will come searching for the meaning of the word Fandry, and spare a moment to understand about lives of these people, I will consider that my attempt to keep its meaning a secret has achieved some kind of success.
Fandry is not a secret, but an invitation for all of you. Please accept it and face the bitter truth that we always tend to ignore. A truth that we’ve always been hiding like an epidemic. But when a vaccine to this epidemic would be discovered, we will have to accept that we are struck by it. It is only then I can dream of a clean and compassionate dawn in the history of mankind.
- Nagraj Manjule
(Translated by Kaustubh Naik aka @goansufi)