I was going through the news when I read about the short film Chalo Jeete Hain. The next line of the news article read that it was based on the childhood of Narendra Modi. I was curious and straight away went on YouTube to watch the trailer. Maybe I am wrong when I say this but I do not have much interest in the country’s politics. But, my underdeveloped cinematic sense found the production value of the film to be excellent after watching the trailer. So, I decided to watch it.
The location of the Chalo Jeete Hain is Vadnagar, the hometown of Modi. The movie revolves around caste issues and prejudices that exist amongst the Hindus. The protagonist is a young boy Naru, (abbreviated name of Modi ) the son of a tea vendor who lives with his family of six in a tiny house. Naru is on his quest to find the meaning of life and goes about asking people “Ap kiske liye jeete ho?” (Whom do you live for?) The little boy has his own ideals, ethics and a sense of justice. This gets challenged when Naru sees Harish, a Dalit boy in his class who stops attending school because of extreme poverty. Naru is seen deeply affected by it and decides to help Harish.
The film boldly portrays the harsh living conditions of the schedule caste community. While helping out his father at the tea stall, Naru asks Harishs’ mother who is a sweeper as to why Harish does not attend school. The mother unapologetically replies that she can either fill their stomachs or pay for school. The film is more about bringing a social reform and on the surface has no political message to offer.
Naru decides to put a play in front of the village with the help of his classmates. The name of the play is Peela Phool (Yellow flower) which in real was a play written by Narendra Modi in his schooldays. The play is a depiction of the reality of Harish and his family. A rich merchant watching the play is impressed and gives Naru a certain amount of money as reward. Through this money, Naru is finally able to get Harish back to education. Even though the movie is a commentary against the orthodox Brahmnaical order; it does not critique the caste system directly. Also, the inner goodness of the society we live is portrayed forcefully. Naru manages to help the Dalit family without receiving any backlash seems way too idealistic.
A good part about this movie is that it does not exploit or exaggerate the poverty of Naru. Naru wears a clean uniform to school. He is seen ironing his own clothes with a kettle of hot water. A reflection of discipline that Narendra Modi is known for. Naru’s family is also economically challenged and is only a little better that Harish’s family but is not socially marginalized. The school shown in the movie is the actual school in which Modi studied during his childhood.
Chalo Jeete Hain is a representation of our society’s flaws that can be overcome with collective strength. The story line is not very revolutionary and is actually conformist. The 32 minute film is streaming on Hotstar and will soon show up on India’s television screens. Subliminal advertising or a good PR technique, this movie comes at the right time before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Remember, the Bal Narendra comic series that turned up on the book shelves before the 2014 elections? If you do not view this film particularly from a political angle, it is a good watch. The roles of Naru and Harish, played by child artistes Dhairya Darji and Dev Modi respectively are on point. The shots are good, the movie remains true to the time it’s been set in and manages to strike that sympathy cord in us.
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