Jogawa is a Marathi word used to describe alms received by a Jogta or a Jogtini - a boy or a girl sentenced to devote their lives in the service of God by society. But, the crux is that the jogta/jogtini are servicing the members of the society that has imposed this ritual on them - their fear of the wrath of God, their insecurity that a God needs to be pleased by sacrifice...of teenagers.
Lead actor, Upendra Limaye and director, Rajeev Patil zealously described this ritual followed in a small pocket in Karnataka which they have translated into the Marathi movie, Jogwa. It was an awesome experience to spend some time with a set of enthusiastic people who were in town to exhibit their film at the Pune International Film Festival. They made sure I understood that -
The name 'Jogwa' might sound like it is art-house cinema. The name is not meant to declare it as a product of 'parallel' cinema. This is commercial cinema made for the masses.
Like with his earlier film, Sanai Chowgadhe director, Rajeev Patil has taken upon himself to showcase the crudeness of a society that calls itself civic, but just a layer underneath doesn't mind crushing individuality in the name of communal betterment.
The so-called societal rules are no less than bombs and we are the terrorists. We, who teach our children to pray and believe just because 'we said so.' A terrorist emphasizes his say and threatens with a bomb and we do the same and impose our beliefs in the name of 'tradition'.
In getting his point across Rajeev keeps two things in mind constantly -
It’s a dark topic but I want to articulate my insight with charm and beauty. Not only because that's a good technique but also because I want to bring the subject to as many people as possible.
Rajeev has tried to convey the shock that he faced when he met the young girls and boys married off to the Goddess by weaving it into a love story.
A jogta once chosen is stripped of his masculinity. He has to dress and accessorize himself as a woman, let alone giving up on his physical needs. He has no choice. If he revolts, he is stripped of his masculinity - this time physically. A jogtini is put to the most obvious use a member of the fairer gender can have. All identifying factors - caste, religion, identity, and very name are taken away from them and they are known as jogta or jogtini. What is worse, a few of them actually believe in their sainthood and that they are doing it for society. This because they have been trained to think so before they could form their opinions. And for others the cause is lost by the time they come of age. Any talk of human rights is only going to be laughed at.
While the focus is clearly on this particular tradition in some corner of rural India, Rajeev with writer Sanjay Patil are also commenting on the traditions that each one of us lives our daily life by. Even a small gesture like a morning prayer is deeply imbibed in us as a ritual; it is no more a personal choice. And even if one does not believe in it, society hasn't exactly made it easy on us to say it out loud.
Jogwa is set for commercial release some time in March this year. That the makers are passionate not only about film-making but are equally touched by the subject makes me look forward to the film for sure!