An uncomfortable parallel of beautification of pouring privilege, breakdowns the striking crescendo of class inequalities in Nagraj Manjule’s recently released short film Pavsacha Nibandh.
With dominating sound and aesthetic visuals of the ceaseless downpour in the rural realms of Maharashtra, begins the cinematic representations of Manjule’s brief description of division and discrimination. Young Raja (meaning King in Hindi) is ironically named so, as his possessions consist of a broken home, family, and pocket; set in one of the most secluded parts of the village, his only chance at any redemption, if at all, is education for which he goes to school.
Unfortunately, a place which should connect him to universal teaching rather teases him right in his face with its subjectivity. He is taught passively about the romanticism of rain through the poetry of Goldsmith by his teacher, who wants to impose an insult to kids who can’t weave essayed praises to the rain. The homework is writing ‘Pavsacha Nibandh’ which translates to ‘an essay of the rain.’
Infused with Sudhakar Reddy’s beautiful cinematography, Avinash Sonwane’s sound artistry, and Mahesh Kadam’s visual effects, the movie instills pleasing images and experiences, while juxtaposing the persistent predicament that rain becomes for another section of the society. Every time viewers wish to appreciate the aesthetic, they will be ensnared in the guilt of the privilege that enables them to enjoy that mysticism.
Upon returning from school, Raja finds his drunkard father lying unconscious in the corner of the market, as his younger sister, Pari, tends to him with her little failed efforts to not get him wet, as he lay drenched, Raja goes to the fields to call his mother for help. Much of the dialogues are hindered with the domineering sound of the rain, but mother’s agitation is quite palpable and consistent throughout the movie much like the rain. Actually, the status quo of each equation remains the same, similar to the backdrop of non-stop precipitation. With a long walk back home, herding cattles, goats, unconscious father, and the kids together, Raja’s mother steers through, to get each of them home.
The rain doesn’t stop, not even inside their broken home as the roof drops with water. The utensils are used more for collecting water droplets than for eating or cooking. Every successive effort to complete his homework is hindered by the very subject of the homework for Raja, as he fulfils his added chores, courtesy: rain, which extended their troubles. As the day nears end, the lamp which is his lighting source is to be given up to his mother for cooking as young Raja once again fails to complete his work.
Many filmmakers have experimented with the element of rain like Wong Kar-wai, Mani Ratnam, Bong Joon-ho, etc. Nagraj who himself directed, screenplayed and wrote this story, made us appreciate the craft of his, for dismantling the romanticism – by exactly showing it in antithesis, and not turning it in any mockery or over the board representation. Despite all the lost hope, the thinnest shred of love in the family is seen between Raja and his sister who humour at the expense of their angered mother as she calls her unconscious husband with names. The nuances of the movie are praiseworthy, right from contrasting darkness of the rainy sky to Raja’s dingy home, and adding a disclaimer for not promoting corporal punishment. Manjule works with child actors quite well. None of the scenes will cry for sympathy, nowhere would Raja deliver a monologue, or show aggression, or frustration. He’d just exist, in his truest state, in front of our eyes, and that would be enough to make the upper class guilty of their prerogatives.
Pavsacha Nibandh mocks romanticism with realism. You don’t go praising and looking up at the sky if you are down with hunger and poverty. The movie in its short duration of 24 minutes starts from a school and cyclically ends back in school, with constant precipitation in the background, where the kids who have had the privilege of stable households read their essays of rain and Raja bends punished outside the class, away from the out-loud reading of the romanticism in his state of realism.
Suggestions, for other short films if you like Pavsacha Nibandh: Bibtya, Pistulya, and Paywat
Feature Image Credits: Film Companion