Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sajjanpur On MTV

By Manuwant Choudhary

Something has changed in India otherwise Sajjanpur will not be on MTV !

The other day I actually watched MTV and the film they were showing `Welcome To Sajjanpur' - a 2008 hit by veteran director Shyam Benegal.

The opening shots of the film show a non-descript village with a voice over saying how this village was originally called `Durjanpur' but India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited it and changed the name of the village from Durjanpur to Sajjanpur. (A village bad people to a village of good people), just as the name of Bombay is changed to Mumbai !

But otherwise nothing has changed in this village.

People are poor and illiterate so much so that the chief protagonist of the film is an unemployed youth - a graduate - who becomes the village letter writer.

And its risky being a letter-writer !

The film's screenplay is by Ashok Mishra and he seems to have drawn his inspiration from TV stories out of Bihar, I could actually relate to many such characters, having actually covered them.

The village goon and elections though violence and threats or `caste' management.

Nothing changes in Sajjanpur, not even election results, for 60 years until eunuchs (who don't have a gender or caste) enter the fray and even win the elections. (this really happened in Bihar)

I thought the film has a message for all Indians.

A love-lorn and somewhat lecherous compounder and the rather longish love affair in the village is rather slow-moving...

But so is life in an Indian village.

The January issue of The Open magazine runs a story `Orphans Of The Great Republic' and the article by Manu Joseph is about the Denim Revolutionaries and he writes that when he worked for Outlook his story on the young generation read, "In a country that was always a revolution short, the winds of change will not come from its modern educated youth. They are passport Indians, just passing through a dirty birthplace."

He also wonders if the new denim revolutionaries are on the streets now because it is no longer attractive to fly away to the West.

I hope not.

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