Even after 75 years of Indian Independence, the caste systems, and the reservations are still an indelible part of Indian society. We have time and again seen its representation in films. Beginning from the black-and-white era to even now, countless Bollywood films based on the caste system and especially atrocities against Dalit communities have been made. Neither the representation changed over the years nor evolved.
However, there’s something very interesting that you should be aware of. Have you ever noticed that the protagonists representing the caste-based atrocities in these films do not belong to a backward caste or community? Why the issue of casteism is is always put forth through an upper caste protagonist? Is Bollywood, which projects itself as the proponent of casteless India, not actually broadminded enough to cast a Dalit protagonist to express the pain that he has to bear throughout his life, even in real life?
Have you ever thought that Bollywood which, time and again, keeps preaching about social harmony, ends up with “Batti Gul, Logic Gul” when it comes to implementing the same?
From Shamshera to Article 15
In the recently released Ranbir Kapoor starrer ‘Shamshera’, the issue of caste politics was explored. The protagonist hailed from a tribal community and was treated as lowlife by upper caste Hindus which is why he starts looting the riches to avenge the humiliation. However, the crores of investment turned out to be nothing but a “Nautanki” as from producer to writer to protagonist, all belong to well-to-do upper caste families.
Few upper caste people came together to display the difficulties faced by lower caste communities and the recipe called Shamshera was ready to be served. One fine day, Aditya Chopra woke up with the idea to make a film. He asked his Punjabi Khatri brother Karan Malhotra to direct the film. Malhotra asked Chopra who will be the hero and Ranbir Kapoor, another Punjabi chip in to play the lead role. Heroine for the film is also a ‘Kapoor’. Sanjay Dutt, Ronit Roy, and Saurabh Shukla were also asked to associate with the film. Mind you, all of them are from upper castes. Just when you thought that this is enough, they decided to get it written by Nilesh Mishra. This was the ‘cute’ story behind Shamshera.
You thought the story ends here? Have you seen Article 15? Have you seen Mulk? These are believed to be path-breaking films. Article 15 clearly was all about casteism and caste-based oppressions. Article 15 was based on the 2014 gang rape case in Baduan, Uttar Pradesh, where two minor girls from the Maurya community were raped and hung from a tree. Ayushmann Khurrana, in the film, played a Brahmin Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who investigates the case. However, he was criticised for portraying a Brahmin “savior”. You see, the star cast of the film came from an upper-class background. Ayushmann Khurrana, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, none of the Bollywood actor in the film came from a Dalit background and ironically the film stood for Dalit rights.
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Directed by Anubhav Sinha, written by Gaurav Solanki, do you find even a single name that belongs to the backward class? Khurana is a Punjabi Khatri, Mishra is clearly a Brahmin, Pahwa is a Khatri, Sinha is a Kayastha and Solanki, too, a Rajput and as far as I know, none of them are Dalits.
Here’s the list of Bollywood superstars
The first ever superstar that India ever witnessed was Raj Kapoor who was indeed born to Punjabi Khatri family. Then came Dev Anand and Harikrishna Giri Goswami i.e. Manoj Kumar, both were Punjabi Khatri and Punjabi Brahmin respectively. Talking about the superstars, how can we forget Amitabh Bachchan who is part Brahmin and part Kayastha. Apart from this, from Rajesh Khanna to Shatrughan Sinha, Jeetendra to Dharmendra, the Bollywood industry could not give even a single Dalit superstar. How is it possible to not mention the three Khans. Well, it is not even needed to talk about their caste and religion as they clearly are not even close to what we are talking about. Dutt family, Ajay Devgn, Dhawan family, Bhatt family- well, sorry but they, too, do not belong to backward class.
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Dalit dominace in South
Now, let’s discuss how many Dalit superstars have come out of South India. To your surprise – not one, not two but many. Be it the actor or the director, the shackles of caste could not bind them in any way.Not only in Tamil Nadu, but such stars are also emerging from every corner of South India, who leave their own mark despite being from a certain community.
For example, Allu Arjun popularly known as “Pushpa” belongs to the Kapu caste which is basically a backward class. Similarly, KGF fame Yash i.e. Naveen Raj comes from the Gowda class, that is, the Vokkaliga community which is the upper class for some and OBC for others. Suriya, who recently won the National Award for ‘SuraraiPottru’, comes from the Gounder caste.
Shouldn’t Bollywood who, on every occasion, preaches about the morality, take a look on its own hypocrisy? Well, yes. It is time for them to analyse their acts and rather than making a film on atrocities against Dalits, they should rather give opportunities to them and help them outshine the Khans who have been ruling the industry for years.
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