Upcoming Marathi film Kanha portrays the politicization of the Dahi Handi festival

By Manishaa R

The upcoming Marathi film, Kanha, which is scheduled to release on the eve of Janmashtami, will show how the festival of Dahi Handi, has been hijacked by politicians, who have made it into a event of political one upmanship. The release of the film assumes special significance in the wake of a recent High Court directive, considering that the movie in addition to the glitz, glamour and the politicization of Dahi-Handi festival also explores the challenge, the thrill and the spirit of adventure that goes into the making of the tallest human pyramids. Every year politicians invest lakhs of rupees to up the ante about the festival with local groups vying with each other for the biggest booty. The idea is to form a human pyramid and break an earthen pot filled with buttermilk, goodies and cash tied from a string at the top. The biggest prize goes to the pyramid that overcomes all the odds and captures the tallest dahi-handi, even risking the lives of young boys and girls who go to great lengths to win the booty. It was in this context that the High Court had recently issued a directive limiting the height of Dahi Handis to 20 feet. “The culture and tradition is nowhere about the height but the politicians who wanted to brand it as an event introduced the competitive spirit, which is how pyramids went up to as much as nine layers. The film shows the clash of identities between groups and their struggles to make their mark but above everything, it shows how politicians have turned the festival into an event, complete with brand identity and value,” says Purvesh Sarnaik, son of producer Parvesh Sarnaik, who is ironically a politician and also hosts the biggest Dahi Handi festival in the city of Mumbai and Thane every year. “My film captures the excitement, joys and sorrows of all those adventurous young men, who train hard to form the most formidable human pyramid. I have been organizing this festival since the past 23 years in Thane and there is also a Guiness World Record and a mention in the Limca Book of World Records in my name for hosting the biggest and tallest Dahihandi in Mumai-Thane at 43.7 feet. Thousands of govindas (participants) seek inspiration from me, which is why I chose this film for my production debut. I found an equally supportive director in Avdhoot Gupte. I am glad that a big player like Zee is supporting this endeavour,” adds producer Pratap Sarnaik, who is hoping to make a splash by releasing the film on the festive occasion.
According to Purvesh, “Dahi-Handi has always been a festival pertaining to Hindu culture. Krishna never had any political party to back him and make human pyramids. However, down the line reckless and power-hungry politicians went onto stretch their limits to the nine layers of pyramids.”
Purvesh insists that despite commanding the reputation of organizing the most formidable Dahi-Handis over the years, they are strictly adhering to the recent directive of the Court and celebrating it like a festival, “We are ensuring that there are no loud-speakers, no children below the age of 18, besides restricting the height of our pyramids to 20 feet.”
So will the action shift in the Dahi-Handi festival this year to the reel life more than real life? “Only the Govindas can answer that,” says Pratap Sarnaik, who is waiting for the D-day. Meanwhile the other politicians are keeping a stiff silence.

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