Q: Is Fandry’s story based on your childhood?
MANJULE: Fandry is a coming-of-age story about Jabya, a boy belonging to the Kaikadi community. His family survives by doing petty jobs in the village and also has the extra responsibility of catching the pigs in the village. I was born in the Wadar community in Solapur’s Karmala area. Our profession was to break stones. Though my father never caught pigs, we were actually expected to do that. As a schoolboy, I was ashamed of this reality. Fandry is the word used for pigs in my village and they used to commonly call us too by the same name. Nobody saw anything wrong in this. It was an insult to me, but I had no idea why it was me who was suffering. As a student, my caste was imprinted on me even in school.
Q: Why did you pick caste as the theme for both your first films?
MANJULE: Caste is the reality of our society. Those who don’t suffer the discrimination feel there is no casteism. Just because the middle class thinks that casteism has vanished doesn’t make it a reality. Take the very simple example of marriage. Does a Brahmin groom voluntarily look for a Dalit bride? Caste has become a part of our routine life. Look around you, check among your friends and close circles. I have not tried to profess anything in the film; I only wanted to show the reality.
Q: In an industry where people are hesitant to take a stand on any issue, don’t you think you will be sidelined for your strong views?
MANJULE: Being an Ambedkarite is an honour and there is nothing wrong in it, nothing to hide. He professed the ideology of equality; and was not for any particular caste. He showed the way that every progressive person would like to follow. What’s wrong in following him? I am really not bothered about being sidelined. I was never on the centre stage so how can I be sidelined?
I don’t have high aspirations of being part of the glamour world or the talk-of-the-town. I want to tell my stories to people in my own way. I have my friends, who will be with me in future. I am happy with them.
Q: Many think that Fandry’s end supports violence. What do you think?
MANJULE: If you think that a small boy throwing stones amounts to violence, how do you evaluate society’s treatment of that boy and his family before that? Wasn’t that violence? As a society, we have the habit of calling any retaliation by the oppressed section as violence. We conveniently ignore the oppression and choose to see it as a way of life.