An unmissable tale of hope and lost innocence in the face of caste discrimination
Rony Patra -
What is the story about?
Gopinath “Gopi” Chavan, a 14-year old boy studying in Class VIII, is forced to clean toilets and accompany his father to the hospital for performing post-mortem on dead bodies. He always tries to remove the odour of sewage and dead bodies from his clothes, in order to escape the casteist taunts of his classmates. After hearing about the fragrant powers of kastoori (musk), he becomes obsessed with acquiring it by working hard. But will it allow him to escape his condition?
All of us are always under pressure to be presentable—to look good, to dress up well, to smell good. The character of Gopi has the same intentions, but he cannot erase the odour that emanates from his clothes, due to his work as a manual scavenger and as an unwilling assistant to his alcoholic father in conducting post-mortems on dead bodies at the clinic. He constantly seeks out the help of his friend Adim in procuring fragrances, but the fragrances cannot mask his odour. When he learns of Kastoori, he sets out on a journey to acquire it by any means necessary, but in doing so, he comes face-to-face with many harsh realities of life.
Director Vinod Kamble masterfully mines his own experiences as a Dalit man living in Maharashtra while depicting the story of Gopi. Together with co-writer Shivaji Karade, Kamble successfully creates a world which is dystopic and heartbreakingly real. His decision to keep the language flitting between Hindi and Marathi is a smart move, as characters usually switch between two or three languages while talking in real life. On the one hand, we see Gopi’s childlike innocence and eagerness to learn in school, but on the other hand, we see his futile attempts to escape his realities. The search for Kastoori takes him down a long road of heartbreak and disillusionment. In the end, his acceptance of his reality is soul-crushing, and yet Kamble’s film hints at the fact that he will keep on trying to better his life and achieve his dreams.
Samarth Sonawane anchors this entire film as Gopi, who always stays upbeat in spite of the numerous challenges he faces, while Shravan Upalkar plays his friend Adim to perfection. The rest of the cast are all believable in their parts.
Music & Other Departments
Manoj Sanjay Kakade’s cinematography and Shrikant Chaoudhari’s editing create a lived-in feel for Kamble’s world. There’s a roving top-shot of Gopi and Adim running through the ruins in excitement, which is masterfully done. Jaibhim Shinde’s background score provides the crests and ebbs in Gopi’s life. But the person who truly elevates the film is sound designer Shoaib Maneri. I’d like to single out his work in the post-mortem scenes. You don’t see the cut-up bodies (thankfully), but the sounds of flesh and bones being cut up are unforgettably etched in your brain.
The entire track depicting the friendship between Gopi and Adim is beautiful and full of hope.
Also, there are several scenes where Gopi is humiliated because of his caste. In one instance, he is ridiculed by everyone in his class, even as he finds the word “bhangi” scribbled on his desk.
Some scenes involving human body parts could be upsetting for many people. Actually, it’s best not to eat anything while watching the film.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes. Even though the story has a series of heartbreaking scenes, you are heavily invested in Gopi’s journey. And when he smiles, you smile with him.
Do I recommend it?
Absolutely. This film should not be missed for the poignant message it sees to convey.