"In a class of its own"'Unlike Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, Mangesh Hadawale’s film Tingya goes to Cannes with no misgivings about poverty portraying India ‘in a bad light’.'
Tingya comes to Mumbai with awards and a legend streaming behind it. The legend is that a young man from Junnar, Mangesh Hadawale, wanted to make a film about a boy and a bull. He narrated his script to 41 producers, all of whom said it was a good story, but sorry, not their cup of tea.
The 42nd producer was Ravi Rai. Hadawale met him by the merest chance. Rai heard the story and said, “Let’s make it.” His only stipulation was, “Make it exactly as you told it.” That must have sounded to Hadawale like a hundred violins playing. So he made Tingya. And now it has won prestigious awards at home and is all set to go to Cannes.
The film’s gamut of emotions move in a completely natural way, leaving us free to learn our own moral-political lessons
I cannot help remembering Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali at this point. When this classic film was proposed as an entry for the Cannes Film Festival, a number of powerful voices were raised against the idea. The film would show India “in bad light” they said. It was okay to be abjectly poor but not okay to show the world that you were. Fortunately Pandit Nehru had seen the film and loved it. He intervened and Pather Panchali not only went to Cannes but won the Special Jury Prize for the Best Human Document.
When Tingya goes to Cannes, no voices will be raised against it. India has four (10?) of the world’s richest men, its techies have taken over Silicon Valley, its beauty queen promotes French hair colour and there’s Bollywood, the eternal dream. India’s image is made. Tingya can go tell its story, no problem.
This then is the story. A small farmer’s old bull, Chitangya, falls into a ditch and is permanently incapacitated. The farmer has paid through his nose for a sack of potatoes which await sowing. But Chitangya cannot pull the plough. The farmer faces Sophie’s choice. Unless he sells Chitangya, he cannot buy another bull. Unless he buys another bull, he cannot plough. Unless he ploughs, his family will starve and the money-lender will be at his throat. But Chitangya and the farmer’s younger son, Tingya, have grown up together. Tingya cannot live without him. To make matters worse, Chitangya cannot be sold for farm work. He can only be sold for slaughter. Tingya bawls. With a child’s unanswerable logic he asks why his friend Rashida’s grandmother, who is also old and cannot work, isn’t being sold off to the butcher.
Finally Tingya learns that you can’t argue against old age and death. Nor can you equate human life with animal life. He also learns that life means birth as well.
There’s much else that happens in Tingya. Other threads, dark and bright, are woven into the main story to create the enduring fabric that is village life. Poverty gives the villagers the strength and stoicism to fight for survival against every odd. The noose hangs in the background, but mutual support keeps some necks out of it.
One scene sticks in the mind. It is twilight. Tingya sits on the threshold of the house. His mother comes from the river with a pitcher of water. “Never sit in the doorway when Lakshmi is entering the house,” she admonishes. Tingya asks, “What does that mean — Lakshmi is entering the house?” The mother goes indoors without a word.
That is the great strength of this film — the absence of heavily underlined “messages” and of contrived attempts to squeeze tears out of deeply emotional scenes. Hadawale’s touch is sure. He allows the story to tell itself through beautifully shot locations, perfectly paced editing, punchy dialogue and intense, controlled performances. Its emotions move between love, fear, anxiety, frustration, grief and humour in a completely natural way, like the seasonal cycle itself, leaving us free to learn our own moral-political lessons.
Finally, I’d see the film again just to see Sharad Goekar’s Tingya and Tarannum Pathan’s Rashida.
- Shanta Goghale (One of the most eminent film critics)