Often pamphlets issued by RSYF* will have the following sentences on the LPG (Liberalisation – Privatisation – Globalizations) onslaught in Education.“For centuries, Education was denied to a vast section of the people on the basis of Caste; it was Old Manusmirithi. Now Education is denied to the vast impoverished people of who can’t afford it. This is New Manusmirithi.” These lines came to my mind when I watched an Assamese movie named ‘Laaz’in an NFDC* weekend screening. Technically the movie lacks to some extent in background score but that doesn’t disturbs you much as you get in to grip of the story and the fine performances of the actors throughout the movie.
Now everybody knew that education is a commodity and those have money can buy it. Private medical colleges, private engineering colleges, deemed universities, private schools etc., etc., have made education a distant dream to lakhs of children and youth in India. With the era of ‘shining India’ began, state stopped pretending the ‘Welfare state’ role, and blatantly cut the expenditures for people welfare schemes. In the case of education, even before LPG the situation was no better. The state and central governments ruled by various parties for years had shed the responsibility of providing the education to the downtrodden people. ‘Laaz’ narrates the struggle of a young girl Ila, daughter of a fisherman whose aim is not so big as Abdul Kalam’s Whiz kids but to win a scholarship in public exam which will help for her further studies.
Her father suffers with chronic asthma. He struggles with the disease and with the primitive fishing in ponds. Her pregnant mother is anemic and tries her best to run the family. Ila studies in the village school and amidst the killing poverty she passes out her lower primary class. The good-willed teachers of her school try their best to help her and encourage her. Ila understands the deprived state of hers and behaves more responsible than other girls of her age. She does the chores of the household works due to her mother’s ill-health and watches out her younger siblings. She has only one dress and wears it for the whole week but even in that situation, she keeps it clean. Often, she dreams for well being and she finds unable to engage herself in the childhood enthusiasm of her classmates. She understands the caste ramifications bearing the yelling of the village pandit and his shift of attitude with the people who have money even though they also belong to her caste.
One day her mother dies and the family scrambles. The worried father becomes more ill. Ila takes the net and starts fishing in ponds to feed the family. Consequently Ila stops going to school. Teachers get worried as the exams approach and they start searching for her. one day, the kind-hearted headmaster and a teacher find her and ask for the reason. Ila bursts out in tears and replies “b’cos sir, I don’t have an underwear” and covers her skirt closely.
I end my comments with the director Manju borah’s lines in her website. “Ila is not a segregated character. Her character brings to light the poverty, neglect, reproach, denial, unhappiness, and frustration of the poor fisher society which speaks for the other similarly circumstanced human race. Ila is the symbol of the unshed tears of the poor helpless villagers. Faced with Ila’s helpless situation one wonder, ‘why do human suffer so? The shame which ila’s feels at not wearing an underwear, is, in reality, whose shame, anyway?'”
*RSYF – Revolutionary Students and Youth Front, Tamilnadu, a student, youth organization functioning in Tamilnadu.
*NFDC – National Film Deveopment Corporation