Watch A Marathi Short Film Depicting The Grim Reality Of Poverty In Rural India

Pavsacha Nibandh
Pavsacha NibandhNagraj Manjule

Heartbreakingly beautiful.

That's how I’d describe Nagraj Manjule’s short film, 'Pavsacha Nibandh'. The Marathi title translates to ‘an essay on the rain’. Through the passage of a day in a young boy's life, the film showcases the gritty realities of poverty in rural India. The film is a masterpiece in empathetic storytelling that highlights the ignorance privilege brings forth.

The movie opens inside a classroom setting where the rural schoolmaster is instructing his students to write an essay on the rain for homework. He asks his students to capture the beauty of the natural phenomenon and take inspiration from renowned English poet, Oliver Goldsmith’s writings on rain. The protagonist, Raja, portrayed by Meghraj Shinde, is one of the students but his life is not like his peers. Once the class ends, everyone journeys back home amidst a heavy downpour.

The film follows the footsteps of Raja as he makes his way back from school. Soaking wet, he walks back and finds his unconscious father passed out on the streets from a previous night of drinking local liquor. Raja’s sister, who is almost as young as him, is also in the scene. The two children do not have the strength to pick up their father. They set off trudging along the muddy-watered path with the torrential rain on their backs to find their mother. Their mother works very hard to provide for them. She works as a maid in one of Raja’s classmates’ houses and also herds the cattle. She is frustrated with her husband’s drinking habits and yet out of a sense of duty, she goes with her children to pick him up and somehow bring him home, all the while hurling curses at the man and her fate.

Raja holds an empty sack of cement over his head as a makeshift raincoat
Raja holds an empty sack of cement over his head as a makeshift raincoatNagraj Manjule

Raja’s family lives in a dilapidated makeshift house that has several leaky holes in its roof. Raja attempts to place utensils beneath the holes to shield the interior of the house from getting wet due to rainwater. It's not just the rain but hunger is also a potent enemy for Raja’s family. After working all day, Raja’s mother grudgingly makes whatever little food she can find by cooking it over logs of wood. Raja goes off to bed without eating as he knows that there won’t be enough for all of them.

The next morning, the scene opens back in the classroom. Every student reads out their essay on rain, commending its beauty, how enjoyable it is to have a cup of tea while watching the rain, and so on. Only our Raja is made to stand outside as punishment in a posture where he has to bend down with his hands stretched and touching his feet, all the while balancing his empty homework copy on his back. The teacher admonishes him physically as well. The rain has not ceased. It continues to pour down ever so heavily splattering on the only student standing outside.

Raja is punished outside his classroom for not completing his homework
Raja is punished outside his classroom for not completing his homework Nagraj Manjule

As the film ended, I could not help but think about how blind people can be towards their privileges. Umbrellas, raincoats, four sturdy walls, a roof, food, a functioning family — the list of things we take for granted goes on but these same things are absent from Raja’s life. It reminded me of a scene from Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, where the rich are seen romanticizing the rain while the poor struggle to keep their house from being flooded. The film not only sheds light on the struggles of poverty but also raises an important question about our education system and how ingrained it is in colonialism, savarna ideology, and how divorced it is from the ground reality of things.

Pavsacha Nibandh
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Even though I described scenes from the film, there are several poignant details that I purposely left out. Some things are best left for the cinematic experience. Give it a watch and it is sure to leave an indelible mark on your mind.

Click here to watch the film.

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