Papilio Buddha leaves us with a bold question: is the largest democracy a truly functioning democracy or just a means of providing privileges for some? Says Paresh Palicha
When you hold up a mirror to society, you don’t always see a beautiful picture. Reality is sometimes very ugly, and Papilio Buddha doesn’t flinch from showing it.
Directed by Jayan Cherian, Papilio Buddha tells the story of landless Dalits and the atrocities they are subjected to and how they are made pawns in the game of political one-upmanship.
As a society we tend to brush uncomfortable or unsettling truths under the carpet and boast about our cultural heritage and our illusory 'functional democracy'.
This film highlights these uncomfortable truths about the way marginalised landless tribals are treated when they try to win the rights accorded by our Constitution. The government, instead of heeding their demands, unleashes atrocities on them, abusing the power it has won through our 'functional democracy', and calls them terrorists supporting the Maoist movement.
This multi-layered narrative shows the violent upheavals and suppression of the movement for the last decade and also digs deep into the caste hierarchy practised even among the Dalits who have converted to Christianity.
The oppression of women, and sexual violence used as a tool to keep them in their place, is shown in the most brutal and unsettling manner without an iota of titillation. There are other forms of sexual subjugation and even emancipation depicted here in an aesthetic manner.
A controversial aspect of the film is its views on Gandhi. Would the man who embraced the Truth and never feared to express his innermost feelings and thoughts, have felt maligned by this movie or would he have embraced it as putting across another point of view?
Sarita Sunil got a special mention from the jury of the recently announced State Film Awards for her performance as Manjusri. But she deserved more than that as her performance takes the film to a new height. She embodied the torture and pain of her community but her spirit was unbroken.
Director Jayan Cherian got a similar mention from the jury. You may feel that he could have avoided one or two shockers here and there for the safe passage of his creation, but, it was his call and we respect that.
Papilio Buddha leaves us with a bold question: is the largest democracy a truly functioning democracy or just a means of providing privileges for some?