Breaking the norms

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Breaking the norms

Monday, 15 November 2021 | Mithila Naik-Satam

Breaking the norms

Film maker and director S Ashwin tells Mithila Naik-Satam that his latest feature film, Vrutti, aims to hold up a mirror to society

This year, Marathi film Vrutti (meaning, human nature) made its debut at the International Film Festival of South Asia, Toronto, Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, and at the DC South Asian Film Festival. The film is a tale of caste discrimination explored through a friendship of two adolescent boys, Akshay (Krushna Thakur) and Viju (Piyush Thakare Madan). It emphasises upon how class and caste discrimination are passed on to the younger generation through adults who find it difficult to see friendship develop between young minds belonging to different castes.

“If something bothers you, make a film about it,” shares the Mumbai-based filmmaker and director S Ashwin about his feature film that pushed the audience come face to face with the umbilical cord that the country still finds difficult to cut. “The film is an attempt to take their blinkers off,” shared twenty-seven-year-old Ashwin.

“The idea is to hold a mirror up to society. The intention is not to change society but to get the audience to ask the right questions,” expresses Ashwin who has made 30 short films in the last decade. Through his films, this young director has touched upon different issues.

With no formal training, Ashwin believes that one does not need to go to a film school since no one can teach you how to tell a story — “It is all you.” In a fluke incident, he made a short film on suicide prevention as part of his college festival in 2011, after which he received appreciation for his work and was told that he had a flair for dark comedy - a genre he did not know existed! This is when he knew that he wanted to tell stories that aim to break societal norms.

Vrutti, initially written as a short film, has emerged from the mythological tale of friendship between Krishna and Sudama. “It is always touted as the bond that knew no boundaries of caste, creed, or social status. I wanted to recapture that virtue of friendship and blend it in the bewitching innocence that children possess,” explains Ashwin.

Speaking of Vrutti, he mentions, “The film deals with the often-unaddressed issue of caste. The film has many instances as to how difficult it can be to achieve minor and essential commodities - if you belong to a certain community.”

“It wasnt easy to get children to act on cue, but the workshops organised with the child actors came in handy. After spending hours with these children reading our script, I started understanding them better. In fact, not all the actors cast in the film are actors! I had spotted Krushna (who plays Akshay) at a restaurant, and I knew that instant he was the Akshay to the Viju,” reveals Ashwin.

The film creatively juxtaposes the characters in a quaint village with rustic charm and picturesque locations. It not only asks difficult questions but answers them boldly. As promised, it does the important deed of making one question these norms. Several carefully crafted scenes (that might go unnoticed) have toyed with the element of color to display the covert identities of caste. As per the director, the film is a peek into 24 hours that changed some lives forever.

The film brilliantly meanders through the hard labor some communities have to embrace as their reality. “Friends are family we choose. But what if your family does not let you choose your friends?” asks Ashwin at the end of the conversation. It is about time that social films like Vrutti take the center stage and push masses out of their comfort zone to look inward and question their own belief about the caste system. Hope people get to see this film soon in cinemas or on OTT platforms.

—Charkha Features

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