Posted On Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 08:13:22 AM
As we all well know and have experienced at some stage in our life as citizens of our country, Jana Gana Mana, our national anthem is sung proudly each year on Independence and Republic Days and in this film how this one instance affects the lives of its various characters forms the simple plot.
For the stifled village school teacher Ramchandra Sontakke (Nandu Madhav, effortlessly outstanding) its his golden opportunity to suitably impress his superiors and seek a transfer to a town school which is closer home.
For the tribal student boy Katu (Chinmay Sant in an award winning performance) wants to sing the national anthem in his school on Independence Day — but only if he sports a clean, white tunic and shorts will he get a chance to sing it.
And he goes to extreme lengths to earn money to buy his precious uniforms — even risk getting run over by a speeding SUV hoping to extract blood money from the driver.
For the boy’s father (Santosh Juvekar), a Faase Pardhi tribal and a vagabond, it’s his first, intense moment of responsibility and father-hood where he seeks to get the white uniform for his son through fair, honest means.
For the mother, (a shoddily sooty Madhura Welankar) she would rather have her son not to go to school than risk further accident ‘injuries’. Instead she reluctantly goes to the licentious village head to sell — not her body —but the honey and herbs she has scoured from the forest and earn a decent amount for that valuable purchase.
Do not be misguided by its title; it is not a ‘patriotic’ film fanning jingoistic fervour. Rather debut director Abhyankar comes up with a scintillating satire on our education system, deliciously mingling sparkling humour with biting acerbity of the despair and disparity in our school, social and value system.
The amiable Sontakke, the protagonist, is one of the teaching staff of the Sarva-Shiksha Abhiyaan of the Government of India which strives to impart elementary education to every child of the country and this loyal teacher reiterates the values by dreaming of having a nation of educated children but hates languishing in the broken-down, beyond-the boondocks school, teaching a bunch of inattentive brats who are more interested in getting their daily free lunch than attending classes.
One of the most comic — if not moving scene — is that of a frantic Sontakke trying to teach them the ‘independence’ part of Independence Day when the kids are clueless about concepts like India and the world.
Irony is a strong weapon and screenplay writer Sameer Joshi has used it elegantly throughout be it through situation or character; except for the lascivious headman even the most minor character like Sontakke’s two superiors have not been sidelined as caricatures but each is sumptuously fleshed out.
Katu, and his older sister Babli (Asmita Joglekar) like going to school not for the academics but for that free mid-day khichadi —a meal of which, there is no guarantee at home.
Similarly, Katu’s parents are wild and vagrant and who for generations, like other tribals, have resignedly accepted the fact that leading life without the basic dignity of living like food, clothing and shelter is but usual and absolute. But their child’s pain and humiliation prompts them to do things otherwise.
Dialogues by Joshi are earthy and artlessly witty, bringing out the rustic flavour of the language beautifully. So is Khale’s candid cinematography as the camera pans thoughtfully over each house, dusty lanes, the winding road leading uphill to the lush, untamed forest inhabited by equally wild, untamed tribals — the inherent pastoral beauty not dulled by the poverty and squalor of the village. As is the yawning dark abyss between the civilised and the barbarous, dignity and exploitation, knowledge and wisdom.