The movie Jhund is based on the life of Vijay Barse, who transformed the lives of slum children through football in Nagpur. Although the story of the movie is predictable, the way Nagraj weaves in anecdotes really takes it to another level. Nagraj Manjule, a committed storyteller, wrote and directed this movie starring Amitabh Bachchan playing the role of Vijay Barse. The important thing that Nagraj does in his movies is deploying actors from the marginalised sections of society in order to bring a realistic feel. Actors who had never got a chance to appear on the big screen nor were considered as mainstream actors: Manjule, who comes from a humble background himself, knows the talent and struggles of these artists. I will not talk much about the story of the movie, but would rather like to touch upon the idea of centralising marginality.
There may be some negative aspects: like lack of proper plotting/development of a few characters and the love angle between Don and the rich girl, who becomes a saviour and empathises with Don (Ankush). The saviour (upper caste/class) complex and the romance angle are proper Bollywood kind of elements. But my focus here is to talk and appreciate the efforts that Nagraj made whic0h are quite different proper Bollywood.
Never seen the greeting ‘Jai Bhim’ in Bollywood ever before: but it is used with conviction and effortlessness in this movie. That one can only expect from directors like Nagraj. He uses ‘Jai Bhim’ without worrying about the discomfort of so-called ‘upper-caste’ Hindus. Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations, when it appears on the screen with the artistic values/aesthetic of the Dalit community, brings joy and tears at the same time. The Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations with the Panchsheel and Jai Bhim flags, brings in an humanitarian perspective–as women and men dance together, enjoying with mutual respect. When the greeting Jai Bhim and the celebration of Ambedkar Jayanti was shown in the movie, I had seen some people in the theatre either leave (for tea/coffee breaks?) or check phones. This is how Nagraj works: not just to entertain but cause discomfort to people too.
Some people and children who live in the slum indulge in crime and drug abuse not because they intensely want to be part of it but the suffering, surrounding, suffocation that they face and experience since their birth makes them vulnerable. This vulnerability takes them into the world of the unknown. Without dramatizing the experiences and position of people, Nagraj clarifies and makes people understand the factors/causes, not the impact/effect- which comes later (not the process but the result). Nagraj ensures each and every character, in their fixed and unfixed boundaries, gets a voice.
Rinku’s father, mostly speaks in an Adivasi language, which is not translated by the filmmaker. When I was watching Jhund with my friend, he raised the concern that ‘why are there no subtitles for the conversation between the father and his daughter?’ I couldn’t reply but after coming home thinking and reading the post by J S Vinay on Facebook I got the point. How can people who don’t know the languages that others speak in the so-called mainstream understand they are a part of this world too? They have their own languages, dialects, which might not fit into your fixed imagination of language and people. Rinku, along with her father, goes to get certificates from various officials and faces challenges during the process. This scene not only shows the rudeness of people, but it also shows the determination she and her father have for not giving up in any situation. This draws our attention towards the failure of digital India that is unable to bridge the gap in remote areas. But what matters at the end is humanity and that’s how Nagraj endorses it with the Bahujan Love that wins over rudeness and hatred.
When I was preparing to go to England for my studies, I needed to get a signature on a bond paper from a gazetted officer. I, along with my father, went to an officer in the block administrative office. After asking several questions he refused to oblige and asked us to go to the District Collector for the same as it mentioned that the papers were needed to be signed by someone of the rank of DM (District Magistrate) not the block officer. I went to the District Collector’s office. After waiting there for two hours, I finally got a chance to meet him. He enquired about everything and said, ‘Who are you, I don’t know you how can I sign for you?’ I requested him saying it is a matter of my career, but he was too rude and casually asked me to go to the ADM (Additional District Magistrate). I went there, and the ADM went through all the documents and repeated the same arguments as the DM. But I requested repeatedly, and after seeing my pleading face he didn’t sign but did one thing. He phoned the block officer and asked him to sign on my documents but with the cautious warning that he will be responsible for the consequences, if anything goes wrong. Again, I went to the block office from the district collectorate some 47 KM away. The Block Officer signed on my documents but for this I had to clear all his doubts and submit a self-declaration application. In this my entire process, my father was with me, keeping aside all his other field work. He was there to run from one office to another. This is how Nagraj touches all our lives while narrating our stories, which no one had ever done before, on the big screen.
Jhund talks about possibilities, and hope which can bring in change even in difficult situations. It’s a matter of opportunities that have not been equally distributed since the beginning in this unequal and unjust society. It exposes the two different worlds, one that is considered as filthy, unknown, inhuman but with the pure hearts and more humanity. And the second one is considered as more civil and disciplined with access to all the resources but lacks sympathy and restricts mobility for the other world. But Jhund shows a space for open mobility for all people to join and share with others.
Acknowledgment: Thanks to JS Vinay for his insightful post on Facebook about the movie Jhund.
Neeraj Bunkar (email@example.com) is a PhD student researching Caste and Dalit realities in Rajasthan Based Hindi Cinema in the School of Arts and Humanities, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom.
Pictures courtesy: the internet.