Reel Asian Film Fest 2016: ‘SAIRAT’ (2016) Movie Review
There are very few films that come along and completely drain you as a viewer in terms of sheer force of storytelling. A film that progressively pulls you in closer and closer with every scene and takes you on an emotional journey. The Marathi film ‘Sairat‘ is one such film that accomplishes this with its incredible grasp of dramatic storytelling. The film is making its Canadian debut at the Reel Asian International Film Festival in Toronto.
Read on for my Spoiler-free Movie Review of ‘Sairat‘.
Set in a very small town, funloving but shy Parshya (Akash Thosar) is an all around good student and athlete in his community. He’s an average kid with good friends who has a major crush on a girl who could very easily be completely out of his league. The girl herself, Archi (Rinku Rajguru) is from an affluent family, along with the arrogance and strong will that comes with it. After some serendipitous encounters, the two fall in love.
In an almost 3 hour movie, their love story is featured for more than an hourg. However, not once does it feel slow or uninteresting by any means. Director Nagraj Manjule creates a story that forces the audience to smile at a love story unfolding in quite possibly the non-filmi-est of ways, with genuine surprise, awkwardness and a freshness that cinematic love stories have been devoid of for years in the Indian Film Industry. This definitely has to do with casting mostly non actors, for exactly that effect.
The lead couple played by Thosar and Rajguru perform their roles to perfection. Parshya’s love struck eager student portrayal in the first half feels genuine, while his transformation into a frustrated and doubtful husband seems effortless. Archi’s evolution throughout the film is even more heartbreaking as she goes from a confident strong willed young girl to a repressed and resentful wife. The journey that both these characters take, and the actors depiction of them is very much the life and soul of ‘Sairat’.
The second half of the film gets pretty dark in the most unexpected of ways, but never for the sake of shock and awe. Everything that happens in the story of ‘Sairat‘ is well earned by the characters and their motivations for doing what they do.
For Writer – Director Nagraj Manjule, ‘Sairat’ is very much a meta-story set in his own hometown, based on his experiences of coupling and love stories. Not only is the film a tour-de-force of performances and writing, but even Manjule’s technical capability comes through in the subtlest of ways. His establishing shots and slow pans during tense moments further enhance the drama and dull the brunt of the emotional scenes that much more.
Being my first ever Marathi language film, I assumed and had written off the music as not being appealing given a lack of understanding. But despite the language barrier, the soundtrack of ‘Sairat‘ is quite simply, epic. Much more than the actual songs, the background score is very effective in conveying the emotional intensity of each scene. Music Director Ajay-Atul do a commendable job with a movie that doesn’t exactly fit the mould of a conventional commercial film where multiple song sequences would be the norm.
My only complaint against ‘Sairat’ is its runtime. For a 2016 movie to be that long, and be focused on the two main characters the whole time, with no other subplots, and no significant supporting characters or anything else happening but the love story, is pretty unexpected. That expectation definitely influenced my dislike for the length of the movie itself. However, the larger picture of the film makes its almost 3-hour run time completely justified. The story is a slow burn, which in turn adds that much more dramatic impact to the plot twists and more edge-of-your-seat scenes. The length of the movie is almost tantric that way. We need the long drawn out scenes with these characters, getting to know them and their emotional journey from beginning to end. It’s effective and makes the third act completely worth it.
‘Sairat‘ has been winning accolades the world over on the Festival circuit. With its Canadian Premiere at the Reel Asian Film Festival, it’s hard not to see why. While at first glance it’s a typical star crossed lover story involving caste and social status situations, the movie evolves into much more. A myriad of issues are touched upon, from caste discrimination to societal obligations. ‘Sairat‘ also depicts certain trope in a very counterintuitive manner fitting into this story. Gender roles in the film are completely flipped on their head, as writer Manjule shows a world where the woman makes the first move, unapolegtically, and the man takes care of the household, but without any commentary on this subversion itself.
It’s a pretty interesting portrayal of characters in the film, as Parshya, the man, is shown as being the shy, meek and passive aggressive one pursuing the girl with love notes; while Archi walks up to him expressing interest and basically asks him out, gets his number, and all the other things usually associates as the ‘man’s responsibility’ during courtship. Even post-marriage, its Parshya who cooks and cleans, as Archi doesn’t know how. But besides a smirk and an affirmation, there is no dwelling of further reinforcing the stereotype that somehow this depiction is not the norm when it comes to a husband-wife relationship. And that is one of many of ‘Sairat’s strengths.
‘Sairat‘ is most definitely a must watch for anyone willing to experience a love story that is genuine and reminds the audience of non-filmy lives where everything isn’t perfect or polished, but rather awkward and clumsy. A great piece of cinema and a wonderful experience directed and performed without a flaw.