The divisions of caste and creed never seem to lose their significance in our society. As elections come and go, fanning communal anxieties and fears gives enough fodder for this age old shame to continue even to this day.
A Dalit man was beaten up because he rode a horse to his wedding. Ill treatment of the ‘so-called’ lower castes by the ‘so-called’ upper castes appear in the media on a regular basis. Rarely do we hear any condemnation of such atrocities by the high and mighty in the society. What are they afraid of?
With digitization providing equal access to information and knowledge and better opportunities nothing can stop the desirous from achieving what they want, neither the social class,nor religion nor geography. Several attempts have been made by the writers, film makers and other artists to give voice to the suppressed.
Tagore’s Chandalika published in the year 1938 beautifully captured the feelings of Protiki, a poor chandal girl who refused to give water to a wandering buddhist monk for fear of polluting him. The buddhist monk, Ananda convinces her that all men are equal in his eyes.
A self-realization awakens in Protiki while she also desires Ananda’s love and companionship. Protiki’s mother at her daughter’s behest resorts to necromancy to bring Ananda in front of her. The story ends with Ananda blessing Protiki and moving on to continue his life as buddhist disciple.
Sujatha(1959) is a movie though didactic in purpose is entertaining and touching in its presentation. The story written by Subodh Gosh has been adapted to screen by Nabendhu Gosh and is directed by the legendary Bimal Roy. The lead role of Sujatha is played by the ethereal looking, Nutan, the grand mother of the famous actress Kajol and the mother of Tanuja. The hero, Adheer Babu is played by a young Sunil Dutt who is impressive in performance as in appearance.
Sujatha is an orphan raised by Upen and Charu an upper caste Brahmin couple. While Upen quickly and easily accepts Sujatha and learns to love her as his own, his wife Charu never really owns Sujatha who is introduced as ‘beti-jaisi par beti nahi’, a taunt that scars the heart of little Sujatha. While the couple send their biological daughter, Rama to school, celebrate her birthdays with pomp and lavish attention on her, Sujatha is confined to the house to do house hold duties. She, however, is respectful and loving to her parents.
Sujatha’s life changes forever with the arrival of Adheer Babu whom Charu was hoping to marry off Rama to. Adheer falls in love with Sujatha. Educated and progressive, Adheer does not believe in untouchability and argues with his grand mother that Sujatha who was brought up in a brahmin household is a brahmin herself and insists on his decision to marry her.Torn between her love for her parents and her desire for Adheer, Sujatha requests Adheer to give up his love for her and marry Rama as desired by her parents.
The story ends on a positive note where even the stubborn old grand mother and Charu, herself realize the worth of Sujatha and look upon her as their own.
Is it the charm of the old that makes the movie such a treat or is it realistic portrayal and the sincere enaction of the roles by the actors it is difficult to say, but if you are in a contemplative mood and are willing to slow down the pace of life a bit, take some to watch ‘Sujatha’ and you will not be disappointed.