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In Search of the Elusive Bird: Childhood from the Margins in Fandry

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This chapter discusses the socioeconomic aspects of caste and class, peculiar to the context of Indian childhood but rarely represented in Indian cinema, in the contemporary children’s film Fandry (2013). Fandry occupies the physical spaces of childhood, chiefly school and home, in order to illustrate the special vulnerabilities and struggles of a child experiencing adolescence from the perspective of a social outcast. The identity-based discrimination that frames the protagonist’s childhood world and the distorting impact of that discrimination on the young protagonist’s coming of age form the thematic basis for the film.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-17620-4_17
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Fig. 17.1



  1. 1.

    There have been very few Dalit stories and characters in more than 100 years of mainstream Indian cinema. The more powerful explorations of caste issues are to be found in parallel cinema and in the southern film industries—although there, too, issues of caste usually take a backseat to the intertwined themes of poverty, rural feudalism, and exploitation. Recently, however, there has been an interesting crop of films, coming from young, often debutant directors, which has added new layers to the depiction of caste in cinema, including Swades (2004), Aarakshan (2011), and Masan (2015) in Hindi film; Fandry (2013), Chauranga (2014), Court (2014), and Sairat (2014) from Marathi film; Kadhal (2004), Madras (2014), Kabali (2016), and others in Tamil film; Gurvinder Singh’s Anhey Ghore Da Daan (Punjabi 2011); and English–Malayalam film Papilio Buddha (2013).

  2. 2.

    Nagraj Manjule belongs to the Warda sub-caste in Jeur village in Solapur. Both his films, Fandry and Sairat, have addressed the caste issue directly and have also achieved box office success. Upcoming Bollywood film, Dhadak (2018) is a remake of the story of Sairat.

  3. 3.

    Some of the prominent examples of Marathi Dalit writings are Laxman Gaikwad, The Branded (Uchalya), trans. P. A. Kolharkar (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1999); Mohandas Namisray, Apne-Apne Pinjarey (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 1995); Om Prakash Valmiki, Jhoothan, trans. Arun Prabha Mukherjee (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

  4. 4.

    Over the years, there has been a gradual but strong push by the Dalits to establish their identity and raise their voices against the traditional old stigma of caste system on various platforms. In terms of cinema itself, Fandry along with other films in Marathi cinema points toward a new genre or rather movement among filmmakers to bring in the Dalit-centric sensibilities on screen. Recent Marathi films like Fandry (2013), Chauranga (2014), Court (2014), and Sairat (2014) seek to directly address the caste issues prevailing in the Indian society.

  5. 5.

    The Hindu caste system is known to have been broadly divided into four castes based on their occupation. Brahmin caste is at the top of the hierarchy, who are priests and scholars, followed by Kshatriya caste who have been warriors and kings. Later comes the Vaishya caste, who have been merchants, and at the bottom are the ones called the Shudra caste who have been laborers and perform menial work for the upper castes.

  6. 6.

    In the recent past, due to caste-based discrimination, higher education has seen the suicide of some Dalit students; for instance, Rohit Vermula, a Dalit Ph.D. scholar at the University of Hyderabad, committed suicide in 2016, which resulted in mass protest and Dalit uprising in educational institutions across India.

  7. 7.

    The poetry of Sant Tukaram challenged the caste-based hierarchy, and he chose the language spoken by people, Marathi, for his compositions in order to connect to the masses and relate to the everyday experiences of the common people.

  8. 8.

    Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar put forth a new path toward Dalits’ emancipation by accessing aspects of modernity such as education and political representation. According to Ambedkar, “For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights” (Ambedkar). These thoughts find resonance in many Dalit autobiographies like The Branded by Laxman Gaikwad, Ooru Keri by Siddalingaiah, and The Outcaste by Sharankumar Limbale. Modernity has put the Dalits in a dilemma: live in old society or embrace modern opportunities.


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Ghalian, S. (2019). In Search of the Elusive Bird: Childhood from the Margins in Fandry. In: Hermansson, C., Zepernick, J. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Children's Film and Television. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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