Dukhi (Om Puri) is leading a poor and laborious existence in a small village in rural India with his wife, Jhuria (Smita Patil), and their daughter, Dhania (Richa Mishra), aged ten years. Wanting to marry his daughter, Dukhi, socially stigmatized by their condition untouchable, offers its work force at the local Brahmin Ghashiram (Mohan Agashe), that he may come to fulfill his ritual and determine the suitable date for the event . Having handed his wife the meager family savings to buy it necessary for ritual offerings, Dukhi visits the Brahmin to perform the various chores established in their pact: sweep the yard of the house, moving a pile of sawdust and charge a huge tree trunk sticks.
These tasks well than testing could be accomplished without much difficulty by a healthy and well-fed man with the proper equipment. But Dukhi, weakened by illness (he is recovering from a severe fever and coughs enormously) and hunger (this is several days he eats little or no money to spare for offerings), hardly much to cut wood with a tiny hatchet. While in full effort and that cry of despair, a man comes to see him to ask him for help. Dukhi, which his pride despite his condition untouchable, refuses food that the stranger offers him, yet he accepts his tobacco thinking that this drug will make him insensible to pain and give him the strength to finish his chore.
Shortly after, Dukhi, exhausted, collapses. It is literally killed the task and his body lying near the trunk, near the access to the village well. This corpse soon proves very cumbersome for the Brahmin. Indeed, other untouchables, encouraged by the mysterious unknown, unwilling to move the dead to allow local authorities to investigate. What to do with this corpse that nobody wants or can not touch?
Produced by Satyajit Ray, then at the height of his glory, for the Indian public television Sadgati is a short work, poignant and activist who book an implacable indictment against the caste system, and a reflection on the question of untouchability. The untouchable condition is a social reality - despite the abolition of the caste system since 1947 - rarely discussed in popular Indian cinema except Bimal Roy's film, Sujata, the few references that can be found at A. Gowariker (we all remember the untouchable, exceptional ball launcher of Lagaan or family of untouchables Swades ) or the character in the film Chithan Pithamagan (although, in this movie, the character, Built to a group of misfits, not located stigmatized by their condition).
She is more in the auteur cinema ( Unni, the other story of an Indian child , Murali Nair, 2005). Bengali master, Satyajit Ray, is regarded in Western moviegoers circles as Ingmar Bergman India for the quality of his films: the calculated staging where each plan account, a psychological portrait of the characters and the aesthetic sublimation. We find these characteristics in Sadgati .
Each plan converges to the tragedy foretold: the plan of the opening sequence where we see Dukhi, crouching, toiling from early morning to cut grass; Map showing Dukhi that moves the huge pile of sawdust with a small shovel; then finally the plane where Dukhi discovers the tree trunk to charge far too big and too big for the small ax that the Brahmin gave him to work. Seeing this plan, filmed against Angle to accentuate the impressive appearance of the trunk, the viewer is satisfied that Dukhi, whatever he does, can overcome this chore and that the fatal outcome is inevitable.
For, what interests the director is mainly the inconvenience caused by the body of Dukhi, cumbersome access to wells for the villagers and embarrassing the Brahmin who does not know what to do. The fate of Dukhi and the inconvenience caused by his body are symbolic of the place of untouchables in Indian society. Reflecting Dukhi, working as a slave for the Brahmin, the Dalits (untouchables) disservice to Indian society by fulfilling the most dirty tasks, the ones nobody wants to do: shoemakers, tanners and undertakers, as job marked by the taint of impurity ground, feet or death.
In exchange, the company offers them a life of humiliation, reminding them at every moment their inferiority and the inevitability of their condition that is passed from generation to generation and they will be able to escape with the death. It is this inevitable that the title Sadgati ( The Deliverance ) reminds ironically. I will not reveal the final sequence you violently denounces the absurdity of the caste system and allows endorse morally that human beings are regarded as junk by other human beings, as are similar in every way, but that an archaic law stated above.
Om Puri, which is one of the first leading roles, carries the film masterfully. Embodying Dukhi, it is a hundred leagues of police characters or authoritarian father which he gave life thereafter, and that any Indian movie lover knows and appreciates. His gestures and his way of keeping us are felt all the weight inherent in untouchability. It creates with the viewer such empathy link that can only sympathize with the physical pain Dukhi or experience, like him, humiliations that others, particularly the Brahmins, inflicting reminding him that he is only a sub-man, good at making the beast of burden.
The joy experienced by Dukhi to the idea of preparing the engagement of her daughter, her tears of despair facing physical weakness or his dignity in the face of another charity are all signs of his humanity despite those who consider as "a man less." Smita Patil, meanwhile, has only a small role: it appears at the beginning and end of the film, his face marked by anguish for the fate of her husband. Besides the absurdity of the caste system, Satyajit Ray indirectly denounces Sadgati child marriage and rituals.
Indeed, the ritual is a ceremony, the product of human culture, the usefulness of which is to help the individual to mark the rites of passage (birth, entrance into adulthood, union, death, etc.) in rhythm to the stages of life. When accomplishing this ritual requires the individual, as is the case Dukhi, to privations or acts endangering his life or survival, then it loses its original meaning to become an absurd obligation.
Sadgati is a sober work in his narration that shows the facts, without misery, and places the debate on moral grounds in the name of what or whom, a man he allowed to inflict such treatment to another man? What moral law can she justify this behavior? We find this sobriety in the sets of the film is limited to a minimum: the cabin Dukhi, home of Brahman which is seen above the courtyard and outbuildings (parts which can access Dukhi), outside of the house with access to the well.
The entire film takes place in a small village in rural India with no signs characteristic allowing it to be geographically impossible to say whether it is North, South or any other area of the sub Indian subcontinent. From the temporal point of view, if not black umbrellas, there is no evidence reminder that the action takes place in the twentieth century. Moreover, photography, sober too, is worked with a slightly bluish light that gives the film a twilight appearance. As many technical elements that underline the intention of the director: advocate for the end of this social injustice, social survival of an archaic design, that is the untouchable status.
The movie is legally viewable on the YouTube channel.