Premchand and Ray's Sadgati: Deliverance of Social Irony
Mr Rajdeep Mondal, PhD Scholar, Presidency University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Munshi Premchand’s 1931 short story ‘Sadgati’ which was made into a film of the same title by Satyajit Ray in 1981 deals with the issues of untouchability in the then contemporary Indian society. The film portrays in details the plight of Dukhi Chamar, the untouchable who revolted against the flawed social structure by the means of his dead body. The entire storyline revolves around the incident when a tanner (an outcast) visits a Brahmin’s house to fix a suitable date for his daughter's marriage as prescribed by the Brahmin. Premchand who is known particularly for the narration of his stories in lucid language gives away a pen picture of the condition of the caste ridden India. Of all the Chaturvarna (mentioned in chapter 4, verse 13 of the Bhagavad Gita) that incidentally exist in the Indian subcontinent namely -Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, the portrayal of the Brahmins and the Shudras are showcased in the film. Dukhi, the protagonist pleaded the Brahmin to visit his home and fix the date for his daughter's marriage to which he was instructed to clean the verandah and move a lot of husk to the cow shade. After the completion of these tasks Dukhi was ordered to chop a massive piece of wood into thin slices with a small axe which was next to impossible for the thinly built Dukhi which resulted in his death thereafter. The entire Brahmin community faced the problem when Dukhi's dead body lay on their way to the water well. The same Dukhi who was neglected at certain point of time by the upper caste community now revolted against their oppression by means of that same body. In certain aspects, this situation in the short story, as well as the film, is found to be resonating with Mahasweta Devi's Dopdi Mejhen. Dopdi's body was abused by the army personnel who used it as a machinery to shame Dopdi. That same body becomes a tool of protest for her when she refused to put on her clothes. Dukhi's lifeless body protested against the evil system of untouchability imposed by the Brahmins. His body restricted them from going to the well. It reminds the readers of the historical day of ‘Mahad Satyagraha’ which is observed as the Social Empowerment Day in India. Thousands of people from the Mahad community who were not allowed to drink from a public well 'Chowder Tank', under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar drank from that well on 20th March 1927. The prevalent caste system in India which has its origin during the Vedic period emerges to be a predominant theme in the film. This paper will make an endeavour to unravel the interchange of hegemonic power between the two characters of Premchand and Ray’s Sadgati i.e ’Dukhi’ and ‘Brahmin’.