Poorna, this real life story of a courageous 13 year old Dalit girl makes for a fascinating read and now, a full-length feature movie.
In an age of outrageous Bollywood masala movies, Poorna: Courage Has No Limit comes as a welcome summer refresher. Directed and produced by Rahul Bose, the film breaks the myth that the Indian audience only wants to watch mindless masala movies with no head or tail to them.
The movie is a biopic on a young Indian mountaineer Poorna Malavath (played by Aditi Inamdar) hailing from the Nizamabad district of Telangana. Born to farm labourers, Poorna represents the ‘lowest of the low’ rung in the traditional Indian social hierarchy – an impoverished Dalit tribal woman.
Poorna, like most Dalit women, finds herself helplessly and hopelessly at the bottom-most rung of social hierarchy. She finds herself socially cursed thrice – first for her economic class (poor), secondly for her caste (Dalit) and thirdly, for her gender (woman).
The movie begins with Poorna finding herself at the centre of a heartless education system. When her father is unable to pay her school fees, she is subjected to sweeping the school’s corridors as punishment. She is targeted, victimised and marginalised owing mainly due to her background.
But Fate has grand plans for the young girl when it brings Dr.R.S.Praveen Kumar into her life. On the brink of her quitting school, the visionary new head of the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society counsels the young impressionable girl on the repercussions of quitting her education for good; not just for herself but also the impact of her action and the precedent that she sets for several other young Dalit girls who look up to her.
Kudos to Rahul Bose for bringing to life on screen, a story that truly deserves to be shared with a much wider audience.
The beauty of the movie lies in its understated elegance – it is far from ‘over-the-top’ and everything is so believable and relatable. The actors are picked aptly for their suitability and fit to the character. They look the part and act so naturally that you don’t feel like you are watching a make-believe movie in the first place. So, you don’t feel like you are watching a star at any point in the movie. The same goes for Rahul Bose, the only known star actor in the movie. His character overshadows his star status as he plays all the subtle nuances of IPS R.S.Praveen Kumar with such grace. He is empathetic and driven in his mission to bring justice to the Dalit Adivasi community that he hails from.
The movie highlights the sad state of the education system and the bitter reality that most teachers today are least concerned about the true welfare of their students. The character of IPS Dr.R.S.Praveen Kumar brings to light the need and importance of good teachers in the current education system. Rahul Bose as the reformatory educator plays the ideal teacher, concerned primarily with the overall development of his students.
His ‘I Promise’ statement sheet to the Dalit students is heartening and inspiring. His statements and actions of positive reinforcement play a major role in shaping Poorna to be the individual she becomes. Dr. Praveen Kumar is a shining example of how genuine belief in a person’s abilities can do wonders for their self-esteem and confidence and make the impossible seem possible. He plays the charming and sensitive mentor to Poorna, and is like a true father figure to her. He inspires his students by broadening their minds and horizons, inspiring them with stories of real life achievers such as Japanese climber Junko Tabei.
Another endearing bond in the movie is between the two cousins, Poorna and Priya (played by S.Mariya). There is true sisterhood between the two cousins – mutual love, admiration, concern and respect for each other. There is no bitterness, jealousy or any sort of ill-will between the two young women. In fact, their strong bond is one of the major sources of inspiration for Poorna’s achievements.
The movie touches sensitively upon the dire importance and need for uplifting the marginalised sections of the society, ending the caste system and its ugly ramifications, which are most strongly visible in the rural belts of the country and subtly shown in the urban areas, and last but not the least, the need for gender empowerment.
The movie doesn’t shout from the roof-tops, preaching grandiosely; it doesn’t cry foul and give rousing speeches. Instead, it takes a cleverly disguised route that involves the audience in the action as the story unfolds and inspires them through its endearing characters. It is indeed heart-warming to see the marginalised children find humour despite their impoverishment and smile their way through life’s hardships.
I particularly liked how the movie emphasised on the real meaning of education. There was emphasis placed on the physical development, character building and emotional intelligence of the young children, beyond academics. Learning was seen as a fun and multi-dimensional activity, which is primarily driven by a child’s interest. Here, in the movie, we see Poorna and her fellow Dalit classmate, Sadhanapalii Anand Kumar whose interests lie in rock climbing. They are encouraged to pursue their dreams and believe in their abilities to do so.
One of the movie’s main strengths lies in its Cinematography. The movie is set against the rural backdrops of Telangana and seamlessly traverses a wide terrain, from its city counterpart in Hyderabad, like the Bhongir Rock to the picturesque views of Darjeeling and finally, the fierce snowy terrain of the rocky Himalayan mountain range.
Poorna is a stellar small-budget movie with its heart in the right place. However, there are moments in the movie, where you wish it had been shot by a technically advanced team; like the movie’s crucial moment, the actual feat of climbing Mt.Everest ideally ought to have been shot on a larger-than-life scale. It would have been a treat to watch all that thrilling live action of some serious mountaineering.
The movie’s message is pretty clear – if you have a strong purpose, intention and will, even the impossible seems possible; like a 13 yr old girl scaling Mount Everest in the toughest weather conditions!
As I walked out of the theatre, I felt very happy, hopeful and inspired. I was so glad that a movie like this was made. But, a lot of questions kept playing on my mind.
Why can’t we have more such stellar movies and biopics of real life heroes?
Why do we look for inspiration in those meaningless Saas-Bahu serials and Bollywood masala potboilers with repetitive formula based stories?
Isn’t it high time we looked for the true hidden gems in movies like Poorna and stop glorifying mediocrity in the name of stardom?
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