Returning to Om Puri starrers 'Aakrosh' and 'Sadgati'

 

Kshirod Nag

kshirod nagIn general perception, Om Puri is not only regarded as an exception in the commercial cinema of Bollywood but also praised for his portrayals, which supposedly speak out the social realities of the times. Two of the celebrated portrayals performed by him are Layanya Bhiku in "Aakrosh" and Dukhi in "Sadgati", representing the plight and agony of Tribals and Dalits respectively.

Aakrosh (1981), talks about the exploitation of the (Marxian notion of) "have-not" class, the tribals in the movie. Two important observations in the movie: (1) a tribal named Bhiku is so much disappointed of the exploitative system, he is not even able to speak out his disappointments in public, rather he chooses to vent his anger by killing his own dear ones; (2) the public prosecutor, who is a tribal himself (played by Amrish Puri) does not understand the "reality" of the incident and is trying to prosecute "his" fellow man, Bhiku. On the other hand, Bhaskar Kulkarni (played by Naseeruddin Shah) a Brahmin lawyer, is determined to rescue the innocent Bhiku from the faulty judicial process.

Sadgati (1982) narrates a story of caste prejudice where a Dalit named Dukhi is suffering from the Brahminical exploitation of labour. The suffering of Dukhi ends in his death, as an effect of incessant service to the social elite - a punditji, in this instance. Later on, the pundit realises his arrogance and the movie ends.

In both the characters, one can see how Bhiku and Dukhi are "helpless" and "speechless" about the exploitative mechanisms. The vernacular terms like "Lachaar", "Bebas", "Bechara", "Besahara" are suitable for these two characters, as per the imagination of the movie makers Govind 'Nihalani' and Satyajit 'Ray'.

Bhiku and Dukhi are Rational and They Talk Differently

Caste system is a reaction to the egalitarian principles of the Tribals and Dalits. In Ambedkar's terms, this reaction is a counter-revolution against the Buddhist philosophy. It means, prior to this hierarchical culture, people of democratic culture had a history of "nation" making. Equality, liberty and fraternity were benchmarks of this history. Without having a reasoning and rational mind one can not think of such democratic values. Hence, democratic people applied their scientific minds to build a nation with egalitarian values. Now, the struggle is going on to reclaim that democracy. Bhiku and Dukhi are not "bebas" or "lachaar", rather they know well how to reclaim those sidelined from history of democracy.

The Brahminical imagination could perceive the lachaari and bebasi in the eyes of Tribals and Dalits, but couldn't see the rational articulations of Birsa Munda, Ambedkar, Jaipal Singh, Kanshiram, Mayawati and so on.

Social Stigma and Market

Through these movies, one can see how caste stigma plays a vital role in terms of accessibility to market. The imagination of pundits always goes for profit maximisation out of the poverty of Tribals and Dalits. Prejudiced movie makers believe that Om Puri can perform a Tribal character better than a Tribal him/herself. In fact, the movie makers think of the profit from the characters they get, in the forms of awards and social recognition.

Deliberate Ignorance of Pundits

These movies were made during a period when Dalits and Tribals were accessing the political sphere not only to articulate their rights but also to remind the social elites of their historical blunders. Birsa Munda, Savitri Bai, Jyotiba and Ambedkar, were the role models for these articulate Dalits and Tribals like Kanshiram, Namdeo Dhasal and others. Following this trend, a large number of people of these sections entered into both knowledge making institutions like universities and administrative fields. Strong socio-political movements by them prove their belief in democracy and secular leadership. The reference point of their imagination comes from the values which talk about "morality based on equality" rather than "social irrationality based caste immorality". Thus, Tribals and Dalits talk differently.

 (This article was written as an assignment in the year 2012, during my MPhil in JNU)

~~~

 

 I am Kshirod Bihari Bharat Nag, pursuing PHD in Sociology in JNU, New Delhi. My research area includes Dalits, Public sphere and Indian Democracy. I am associated with UDSF on the campus. I am basically from Kalahandi district of Odisha.

Other Related Articles

The ‘Dalit’ President and the question of representation
Sunday, 25 June 2017
  Kadhiravan The year was 2009, I was in my final year – under graduation and there happened a week-long orientation towards facing campus placements. In one of the group sessions, a debate on... Read More...
Justice Karnan: A man caught up in the whirlwind of ideals
Saturday, 24 June 2017
  Dharmaraj Kumar I have been thinking of whether to write something to pursue the so-called 'curious case of Justice Karnan'- the title that flooded the mainstream media and finally brought... Read More...
Why RSS can’t accept even a Sanghi SC/ST/OBC Judge?
Friday, 23 June 2017
  S Kumar Nomination of Mr. Ram Nath Kovind for the presidential position has again brought the caste politics to the forefront of Indian politics. While a Brahmin appointment like the outgoing... Read More...
आर्य आक्रमण और भारत के पतन और अपेक्षित उत्थान के प्रश्न
Thursday, 22 June 2017
  संजय जोठे (Sanjay Jothe) अभी एक महत्वपूर्ण जेनेटिक रिसर्च सामने आई है जो आर्य... Read More...
Why the Sangh needs Ram Nath Kovind
Wednesday, 21 June 2017
  Mangesh Dahiwale The President of India is a ceremonial post. It is often compared with the "rubber stamp". But as the head of state, it is also a prestigious post. The orders are issued in... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Index of Articles in Features
Sunday, 07 May 2017
  2016 ~ Uniform Civil Code & Ashrafiya obsession with Triple Talaq by Ayaz Ahmad ~ Maratha Kranti (Muk) Morcha: When will Maratha women cross the threshold? by Sandhya Gawali ~... Read More...
Fight against the Misogyny & Casteism of 'Best Indian Memes for Creamy Teens', FB page
Friday, 06 January 2017
  Vinay Shende "My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a... Read More...
The Death of a Historian in Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Sunday, 19 March 2017
  Jitendra Suna Speech made at the protest by BAPSA on 16th March, 2017 against the Institutional Murder of Muthukrishnan (Rajini Krish) I am Jitendra Suna, and I am from a remote village named... Read More...
Gangrape and Murder of a 16 year old Dalit girl in Sendurai, Tamil Nadu
Saturday, 21 January 2017
  (A condensed translation, by Trevor Jeyaraj, of Mr. Venpura Saravanan's Facebook post in Tamil ) N (16), daughter of Rajendran R of Sendurai taluk in Ariyalur district, Tamil Nadu, who... Read More...
Brahminical Patriarchy and Social Media
Friday, 27 January 2017
 Bhagyesha Kurane Social media has become an integral part of our lives these days. There are various notions prevalent about whether one should use social media, and if at all it is to be used,... Read More...