All posts filed under: Caste

CHOMANA DUDI / CHOMA’S DRUM (1975, India, B. V. Karanth)

In Chomana Dudi the sound of the drumbeat never really stops. It is a sound at first made by Choma (Vasudeva Rao in a remarkable performance), the aging bonded labourer and untouchable, used to express the rage he feels about his oppression. But later it appears more frequently, punctuating the narrative, an incessant reminder of feudalism and casestism as perpetual to history. The sound of the drumbeat is one of political impotency; a pathetic cry of futile social conditions from which Choma and his family are unable to escape, no matter what they do. Chomana Dudi is based on a classic of Kannada literature, Choma’s Drum, written by acclaimed novelist K. S. Karanth. Choma’s dream of buying his own land, having toiled his entire life for a despotic, exploitative landlord, is a fatalistic death kneel, conjured from the debauched universe of noir. Directed by B. V. Karanth (interestingly director Girish Kasaravalli is credited as assistant director) and released in 1975, Chomana Dudi, was part of a Parallel Cinema that transpired in Karnataka in the 1970s, a …

MANJHI – THE MOUNTAIN MAN (Dir. Ketan Mehta, 2015, India)

Ketan Mehta is questionably one of the few remaining Parallel Cinema filmmakers still actively making films. One could probably include Shyam Benegal in this tryst. Many of the Parallel Cinema films declared an affinity for ‘Subaltern Voices’ (see Sangeeta Datta’s monograph on Shyam Benegal), which in turn became a recurring unofficial hallmark of institutional NFDC policy, and Mehta’s latest film ‘Manjhi – The Mountain Man’ spiritedly recalls the Parallel Cinema movement. Manjhi is a co-production between Viacom and NFDC, a collaboration between private and public funding, resulting in a film that is an uneven mix of politics, melodrama and history. One of the most confusing aspects of the film is the way Mehta structures the narrative, shifting back and forth without any real purpose other than to overstate the decorative idea of one man’s journey. Parallel Cinema intervened in the historical invisibilities of India, functioning as an instrument to decentre monolithic narratives that often marginalised subaltern groups especially the lower castes. Mehta was a central filmmaker in this project and his early work in this …

CHAURANGA / FOUR COLOURS (Dir. Bikas Ranjan Mishra, 2014, India)

Synopsis: A fourteen year old dalit boy is growing up in an unnamed corner of India. His dream is to go to a town school like his elder brother and his reality is to look after the pig that his family owns. His only escape is to sit atop a Jamun tree and adore his beloved passing by on her scooter. His unspoken love is as true as his mother’s helplessness who cleans the cowsheds of the local strongman’s mansion, with whom she also has a secret liaison. When the boy’s elder brother comes on a vacation to the village, he soon finds out about his younger brother’s infatuation. The learned elder brother makes him realize the need to express his love and helps him write a love letter. (http://www.anticlockfilms.com/films/chauranga) I’ve been considering what to say about this film for a few weeks now but still cannot find the clearest way to express my thoughts. The film deals with feudal caste politics in an Indian village. What it is clearly trying to do is recall …

AAKROSH (Dir. Priyadarshan, 2010, India) – Caste Politics

A remake of Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning, Priyadarshan’s transfers the politics of race relations to that of caste in the ruralism of Bihar. Hailing from Kerala, Priyadarshan forged his career making a string of commercially successful comedies in Malayalam with actor Mohanlal. Including his extensive output from the eighties, Priyadarshan has to date directed over eighty films and is perhaps one of the most prolific directors working in the world today. I have not seen any of his films with Mohanlal, many of which he has remade since his shift into the Hindi film industry, but Virasat (The Inheritance) which he made in the nineties is one of my favourite Hindi films and might actually feature Anil Kapoor’s best performance. Aakrosh is a stylised attempt to bring to light to the continuing cancerous existence of caste politics and honour killings in rural India. Ideologically, the discriminatory and brutal caste divide encountered by the two officers, played by Akshay Khanna and Ajay Devgan, in Bihar uncovers predictably an insipid collusion between the police, religious elements and …