Love stories are a celluloid staple for their popular, emotionally engaging appeal. Their trite portrayal may have stripped the genre of its inventive potential but once in a while comes along a filmmaker, resuscitating our fading hope. Nagraj Manjule takes an oft-seen premise of teenage love (an upper-caste, political leader’s daughter Archie and a fisherman’s son Parshya). The story trails the beginnings of first love, the escape, the hurdles, parental, societal pressures. But it’s the treatment where the film stands apart from the usual crop of romantic films. It steers the romantic flights of fancy into a real, relatable terrain, that our films seldom explore. A progressive, realistically anchored film, Sairat thrives on its minimalist storytelling and raw, natural performances.
It marries the old-world and traditional with the unconventional and modern. Like how the boy tries to communicate through the customary love letter. But the girl isn’t shy or pliant. She has a voice and a mind of her own. Archie adorably and convincingly thwarts the image of the stereotypical Bollywood/Indian heroine. Bold, strong-minded and self-reliant, Archie doesn’t need a man to protect her. Like the scene in the restaurant where she tells off a guy staring at her, without a word or telling Parshya.
Even Parshya’s character isn’t confined to the image of a typical Bollywood ‘hero.’ (The film is broadly progressive in its approach, particularly towards the characters and in defying gender norms. But it’s uncomfortable to watch Parshya hit Archie in one of the scenes later in the film. She doesn’t take it lying down but it’s a regressive submission to the very traditional norms Sairat tries to defy through the progressive portrayal of its lead characters).
Winsome performances abound but Rinku Rajguru (Archie) and Akash Thosar (Parshya) are the heartbeat of the film. Sairat earnestly captures the innocence of first love through the chemistry between its protagonists. And Ajay-Atul’s sublime score, with a character of its own, aids the chemistry.
Not to be missed.
For those keen, Sairat is now streaming on Netflix.