Sairat is a provocative film. It clearly says that caste is still an integral part of our lives. And this is exactly why Nagraj Manjule's Sairat is such an important film. It is a movie that forces you to think, to do some soul-searching.

A cricket match is on. The commentator is excited, and so is the crowd. The scene is bursting with nervous energy, who will win? Will our hero emerge victorious in the end? But where is the captain? The team wonders, and so does the audience. Parshya aka Prashant Kale (portrayed by the talented and charismatic Akash Thosar) has been busy stealing glances at our leading lady ‘Archie’ Archana Patil (the wonderful Rinku Rajguru).

Parshya wins the match but loses his heart, and his life towards the end. All for love. Parshya is a fisherman’s son who has a good academic record and is brilliant at sports. But he doesn’t care for these things as much as he yearns for Archie, the rich politician’s daughter and an ‘upper-caste girl.’ As Parshya chases the girl of his dreams, we see an innocent love bloom like the prettiest flower of the garden.

Akash is dynamic as the love-crazed Parshya. There is a scene where the actor jumps into a well, only to be told off by Archie in the end. He later gets out of the well, drenched in water and Archie’s love, smiling like a fool. His friends ask him about what had transpired between him and Archie, and he simply shrugs and smiles in response, saying, “Archie asked me to get out of the well.” And it is then that you realise, you have been smiling along with Parshya as well. Why? Because you believe in his innocence, because you want him to get noticed by Archie. Because two minutes into the film, and you are already rooting for him.

Sairat, in Marathi, means wild, unfettered. And Archie and Parshya are wildly in love with each other, so much so that they give up their easy and carefree young lives and dare to love without caring about the consequences, and this ‘bold’ step invites the ire of the entire village. How dare they mingle when their castes don’t match and their lifestyles don’t match? Their audacity to follow their hearts drives the people around them wild in turn.

Sairat is a provocative film. It clearly says that caste is still an integral part of our lives, a concept that we have clung to for centuries. We live in a country where a Dalit man riding a horse for his wedding still makes noise. And this is exactly why Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat is such an important film. It is a movie that forces you to think, to do some soul-searching. Parshya and Archie are real people trapped in situations beyond their control.

The social message aside, Sairat at nearly three hours, doesn’t feel like a drag. Because it’s quality cinema. You are entertained by the characters’ antics and their personalities are colourful. When they dance when a train passes by, you cannot help but laugh. Their tears move you. When Akash’s Parshya breaks down after his professor tells him that he is in for a world of pain for sleeping with Archie, you are touched as he declares in no unclear terms that he loves Archie and that he is just not messing around with her for a few moments of fun.

One of the strong points of the film is Rinku Rajguru’s character Archie. She is bold and her own person. She rides a bike, dares to invite her boyfriend to her casteist family’s gathering, and on multiple occasions, she steps up to save the life of her love and his friends without a care in the world. Furthermore, she leaves the comfort and luxury of her home and holds Parshya’s hands even when she feels like she cannot do it any longer. There is a sequence in the movie where Archie confesses to Parshya that she finds living in a slum difficult because she is not used to being on her own in alien surroundings. In the same scene, she shares that she is torn between her desire to live with Parshya and to return to the cocoon of her former sheltered life. But she stays back. If that’s not bravery, what is?

Sairat might not be perfect, but it gets pretty damn close to perfection. Not just the script, performances and direction, the music and cinematography of the film were on point as well. The camerawork by Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti is a thing of piercing beauty. Each frame is, well, frame-worthy. So pretty that it makes you ache, just like the film.

The Sairat remake Dhadak, starring Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor, has some enormous shoes to fill.

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