The Marathi feature film Vrutti (Human Nature) made its debut at the International Film Festival of South Asia Toronto in August 2021 and is now scheduled to be screened at the DC South Asian Film Festival in January 2022.
At the face of it, the film is about two friends — Akshay (Krushna Thakur) and Viju (Piyush Thakare Madan) — but soon dives into the class and caste discrimintion where children are made to realise about their caste not by their peers but by the grown-ups who don’t like them getting along with the children of the upper castes.
“If something bothers you, make a film about it,” the film’s director S Ashwin says.
Ashwin is a 27-year-old film-maker based in Mumbai. He started making independent short films in 2011 that have touched upon various issues and has made 30 short films till date. Ashwin does not have formal training in film-making. He says it is not compulsory that one should go to a film school because “no one can teach you how to tell a story, it’s all you!”
In a fluke incident in 2011, Ashwin worked on a suicide prevention short film as part of his college festival where he was told he had a flair for dark comedy — a genre he did not know existed until then. This is when he knew that he wanted to tell stories questioning societal norms.
Vrutti, initially written as a short film, emerged while thinking about the friendship of the mythological characters Krishna and Sudama. “Krishna and Sudama’s friendship 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,” Ashwin says.
Talking about the theme of the film, Ashwin states, “The film deals with the often unaddressed issue of caste. During the course of the film there are many instances as to how difficult it can be to procure minor and essential commodities if you belong to a certain community.”
When asked about how it was to work with children, Ashwin says, “It wasn’t easy to get children to act on cue but the workshops organised with the child actors came handy. In fact, not all the actors cast in the film are actors! Krushna (who plays Akshay) I spotted at a restaurant, and I instantly knew that he was the Akshay to the Viju.”
The film creatively juxtaposes the characters in a quaint village with rustic charm and picturesque locations, asking difficult questions and boldly answering them. In many instances, it does the important deed of sowing that seed of thought that makes you question society’s norms. Many carefully crafted scenes (that might go unnoticed) have an element of colour to display the covert identities of caste. Without giving the detailed plot, the director smirks and mentions that the film is a peek into 24 hours that changed some lives forever. The film brilliantly meanders through the hard labour some communities have had to embrace as their reality.
He adds, “Friends are family we choose. But what if your family does not let you choose your friends?”
“The film is an attempt to take the audience’s blinkers off. The idea is to hold a mirror to society and get the audience asking the right questions,” Ashwin says.
Mithila Naik-Satam is development professional working in strategy and communication within polity, sustainability and water. She is passionate about documenting stories, both visual and written. When not on field, she loves to indulge in analysing and watching cinema.