By Utpal Borpujari
The innocent-sounding phrase Ek Cup Chya ( ‘a cup of tea’ in Marathi) has become an allegory for bribe-seeking in many parts of India. Now, this phrase has become a title of what is probably the country’s first feature film focusing on how to fight corruption by using the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The Marathi film, directed by veteran duo of Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar, impressed cinegoers at the 40th International Film Festival of India on Tuesday through its effective telling of the story of how a state transport bus conductor uses the RTI Act to fight against a huge electricity bill he is slapped with by mistake.
The film, part of the Indian Panorama section, shows how the conductor, Kashnath Sawant, suddenly finds himself in a mess as the power connection to his rural home is cut off as he fails to pay the huge bill amount, putting in jeopardy his brilliant son’s examination prospects.
With advice from his driver friend and guidance by an RTI activist, Sawant works his way through the labyrinths of the electricity department to get justice simply by asking questions using the Act. On the way, he finds out that the act could be effective even in his own department.
Bhave and Sukthankar, who have made several socially-relevant films earlier, have said that their film is a tribute to those who have never offered a “cup of tea” to anyone and chosen to fight their battles silently.
What has worked for the film is the brilliant acting by veteran Kishor Kadam as well as the directors’ success in narrating a humane drama without descending into too much of an activism mode.
The directors say that the message of the film is that “the faceless systems in democracy will have to learn to think about the tolerant and silent masses as unique individuals and not just mere numbers”.
The Indian Panorama section earlier opened with Laxmikant Shetgaonkar’s powerful Konkani film Paltadcho Munis (The man Beyond the Bridge), which takes one into the life of a lonely forest guard in the Goa-Karnatake border and his relationship with an insane, helpless woman.