Activism is my need – An Interview with Vira Sathidar

January 13, 2017

 

This interview of Vira Sathidar, conducted by Pallavi Singh, appeared in The Hitavada.

A teenage boy while working as a labourer was bitten by a scorpion. But the hurt was way less than the stinge of casteism he was suffering since childhood.

“My fellow labourers did not eat the food I touched.”

“When the scorpion bit me, the first thought that crossed my mind was, it must be of the same caste as I am. It did not treat me as untouchable,” said a distant looking Vira Sathidar, a dedicated activist, actor, singer, writer and best known for his role in the internationally acclaimed movie “Court“.

Starting his journey from a small village Paraodi (Gokhale), about 30 km from Nagpur, Vira Sathidar has come a long way. The pangs of casteism drew him towards activism, drawing him to speak for the rights of the oppressed and bringing forth an activist speaking his mind through acting.

“Court” as a movie won the award of “Best Film in the Horizons Category” at the 71st Venice Film Festival and the award for “Best Feature Film” at the 62nd National Film Awards in 2015. The film won 18 national and international awards before its theatrical release.

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Q. Where was the seed of activism sown?

I saw untouchability very closely. I have seen how small one feels and to what extent the society can suppress you. It ignited a spark from within.

I wanted to come out of the vicious circle, but not alone. I wanted everyone like me to stand up and speak for what is right. People did not eat or drink if people of our community touched it. We were treated as lesser mortals. All this was rooted in through early childhood experiences.

Q. And when did you actually come in the mainstream?

In 1978, I came to Nagpur and worked as a labourer in a factory. I was heading the workers’ union. In one of the factories in Nagpur, a worker was killed and the union went on strike.

I was called to speak at the gathering, where representatives of various political parties liked my enthusiasm. In no time I came into active politics, which I left after a short span of time and realised my real calling of activism, which was always alive in some part of my heart.

Q. Tell us about your journey as an artist.

As a child, I used to sing in nukkad nataks and kirtan. When I stepped into activism, we performed street plays for various social causes. Sometimes we voiced our causes through acting, at other times singing. I read Rousseau, Voltaire, Lenin, Maxim Gorky, and many other writers to gather a literary and political understnading. All this slowly groomed me as an artist. Activism made it easy for me to be an artist.

Q. How did you land up playing Narayan Kamble and to what extent do you relate to the character?

My friend in Mumbai told me about the role. After much persuasion, I gave an audition and the shooting of “Court” started.

They doubled my fee after 8 days of shooting and till the time the movie was completed my fee was further increased. I was left aghast when the film fetched so many awards. Not in my wildest dreams I imagnied that it will turn out to be so big.

When I saw the movie for the first time, I saw myself in Narayan Kamble. An ageing man who is a street performed, singer, writer, and educator and fights against the system. During shooting of the movie police came to arrest me. It felt like it is my story. May be this is the reason I did not have to try to act. It came naturally.

Q. So how has life changed post “Court”? Will the activism continue?

Court has given me recognition and everything I never thought I will have. It gave me aplatform to continue my activism which will now reach to a large population. It made things easy for me.

Movies are a medium to pick social issues and I will use it to the best. I am an activist and I will remain one. I am also planning to step into filmmaking.