Nagraj Manjule's Marathi feature Sairat has captured the imagination of audiences in Maharashtra and beyond, having opened in late April to overwhelmingly positive reviews (read ours here) and a rapturous audience response. On Saturday, actor Riteish Deshmukh likened its box-office earnings, which are the highest ever for a Marathi film, to all-time Bollywood blockbusters like 3 Idiots (2009) and Dhoom 3 (2013).
The love story of Parshya and Aarchi, played by Aakash Thosal and Rinku Rajguru respectively, has inspired a group of around 100 volunteers across the state to form an informal Sairat Marriage Group (SMG), which provides a support system to young couples who elope, reported The Indian Express. Due to long-standing patriarchal norms, these couples fear repercussions for marrying outside faith, caste, and/or community and are provided very little support by the police, who usually turn them away or side with the parents, or the State, which only has a scheme that grants inter-caste couples a sum of Rs 50,000 but no other assistance.
The group operates through social media, with the help of individuals who work day jobs and pitch in as and when required. They look for couples in distress, and advise them before they take any drastic step. Jagdish Sandanshiv, one of their volunteers, told IE:
“We have been getting all sorts of calls. Recently, a Hindu-Muslim couple eloped and the parents of both the kids were after them. We have helped them go underground. When the matter cools off, we will have them married in court.”
The group has also helped couples after marriage, advising Ambernath residents Chhaya and Aakash Gotise, who got married secretly, to take the legal route by stating that they are adults with the right to marry someone of their choice — a piece of advice that has worked for the couple.
Formed a little over a month ago, SMG has already helped five couples get married.
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