Armed with books, he fought discrimination

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His name? Well, it was Garbage

Film Review: Kachru Mazha Bapa (My Father’s Name was Garbage!)
Directed by: Mukesh Jadhav
Produced by: Motion Media Arts
Language: Marathi
Cast: Arun Nalawade, Aasavari Joshi

Kachru Mazha Bapa film poster
Kachru Mazha Bapa film poster

A 12-year-old boy 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 on pulling the handcart. Suddenly people jump with joy… hail the victory of the motherland; India finally is freed from British rule.

The boy has a big smile on his face, the word freedom and victory gives him strength to pull the heavy cart, he carries on with his daily chore of carrying heavy loads to earn his single meal of the day. Did something change for the boy named Kachru at this point? Did he feel freed from oppression in the name of caste, or is it the battle that he has to fight on his own to free himself?

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

You must be wondering why someone would name their child Kachru, which means garbage… but when a thousand years of systemic oppression is ingrained in you, taking on respectable names is also deemed crime.

A still from the film
A still from the film

What better homage then for Kachru Bansode, for the sacrifices he made to empower his family through education, than for his children to produce a film on his life and 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 140 minute 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-ups 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 story moves in a non-linear fashion, when Kachru’s school-going daughter is asked to write about her father, which makes her prod him about his story, starting with why he will not change his name, despite it being quite shameful. Thus the journey to capture the life and travails of Kachru begins. 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 realisation 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 premiered at RMIT Indian Film Festival in Melbourne
The film premiered at RMIT

The film beautifully portrays Kachru and his father’s relationship, but it is the relationship 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 marginalised voice of dalit women, who are the worst impacted due to the double oppression (being an untouchable and a woman).

In recent years Marathi cinema has taken a lead in telling stories of the underprivileged and their struggles in simple yet evocative approach, and Kachru Mazha Bapa does this in the earthiest most beautiful manner.

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

Vikrant Kishore
Vikrant Kishore
The writer 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 organised various international conferences, film festivals and seminars to popularise Indian cinema

 

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