Caught in a Traffic jam: Liberation in Malayalam cinema

 

Rupesh Kumar

The Malayalam movie 'Traffic' has the actor Sreenivasan essaying complex roles; narrator, convict and the hero. I find it significant to analyze his role transformations and examine the explicit and implicit messages being conveyed in the movie as a reflection of Malayali society. 


The Narrator         traffic malayalamWhy was Sreenivasan chosen to be the 'philosophical' narrator in ‘Traffic’? Perhaps, as a part of the ongoing image building exercise of the Brahmanical hegemony in Malayalam cinema and cultural spectrum to construct him into a reference point as 'the' satirical intellectual. How does he get this image? When we closely look at the characters/scripting/directorial efforts of Sreenivasan, through his thirty year long film career, there is a clear and consistent brahmanical narrative that disparages the body, mind and culture of dalit bahujan. His characters animating the black/dalit body languages were either failures, fools or cowards. His scripts were usually aimed at ‘killing’ dalit bahujans on screen. In popular culture he is celebrated as Kerala's ‘Charlie Chaplin’ and a media savvy intellectual. One who can simultaneously critique and promote Malayalam cinema and its fraternity by playing to the gallery via numerous interviews, reviews, criticisms and television programs. 

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Aarakshan: Expression with Reservation

by Bobby Kunhu

I have not watched Aarakshan.THAVD_AARAKSHAN_754271f_copy

I am an unapologetic advocate of free speech.

And I generally do not like writing about what I do not know.

But then this piece is not about Aarakshan, but about dominant discussions about the movie from newsroom discussions to (English) newspaper headlines. And most of the discussants had not watched the movie either.

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The angry young man wasn't an outcaste

By Kuffir

'I am not a believer in the caste system' says Amitabh Bachchan. This is not the first time that he has repudiated caste. He had spoken out against the caste census earlier when he said his caste was 'Indian'. It is another matter that the Kayasthas aren't willing to let go of him.

Amitabh-Bachchan-Wallpapers-05Has the 'angry young man' mellowed down? Wasn't he the rebel who consistently fought against injustice and exploitation from his earliest films? One could be accused of conflating the two, his screen persona and his real life personality, and trying to make the latter, reality, to stand up for the former, fiction. But this article tries to argue that there isn't much difference between the angry young man of a few decades ago and the seemingly mellow old man, the real Bachchan of now. Both stand for a conservative social order, for caste.

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The media and violence against women in 'Maya's UP'

 

Bhanu Pratap Singh

[Why is every crime in Uttar Pradesh reported as happening in 'Maya's U.P', while similar incidents in other states are not publicized as happening in 'Sheila's Delhi' or 'Reddy's AP'? This article discusses the sordid casteist politics behind the media's consistent negative coverage of 'Maya's UP', and the Congress and other brahminical parties' frequent and melodramatic public displays of concern for the marginalized sections in the state- Round Table India

mayawati00111222121

In recent months there has been a sudden increase in news reports concerned with violence on women, particularly rape, this increased reporting is a welcome trend. Though not too surprised at the regular occurrence, I was curious how mainstream media finally found it important enough to deploy more of its resources to gather and disseminate news about this aspect of Indian society. I also noticed a peculiar trend: almost all the articles were reporting crimes only from the state of Uttar Pradesh. This trend was uniformly reflected in all the major mainstream media outlets and started appearing in the Western media too. Dalit activists have for so long decried the lack of media attention and sensitivity in reporting crimes on dalit women, who experience violence routinely as a result of the caste heirarchy, and now suddenly these news reports were front page stories. What brought about this change of heart?

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India “shit hole” and Ganga a “junkyard”

 

Pardeep Attri

Recently, an Australian radio host, Kyle Sandiland called India a “shit hole” and Ganga a “junkyard” and Indian groups in Australia are seeking an apology from the radio station as the Indian community is quite angry with such remarks from the Australian media. I was reading this news online and there were hundreds of comments below the article and most of those comments were literally abuses hurled at Australians, Australian media, and most importantly on Australian cricket team! I was wondering what cricket has to do with the remarks of the radio host. Later on I figured out that it’s cricket that brings Indian and Australian people together and then makes them fight for almost anything!

ganga dirty

 People who are opposing the same are either ignorant or in denial. It is hard reality and Indians need to accept it --not only the Ganga, but almost all the other rivers (have you ever seen Yamuna?) are turning into drains, have been dumping spots for big industries for a long time now. Have you ever visited the Allahabad and seen the condition of Ganga? This place is called the holiest place to take bath and shed all your sins committed in this life time, but I doubt if one has ever survived no illness after taking a bath in such polluted water. A few years back The Economist reported that Hinduism’s scared river (Ganga) contains 60,000 faecal coli-form bacteria per 100 millilitres, 120 times more than what is considered safe for bathing. Ganga has eventually become the “junkyard of corpses” and there shouldn’t be any doubt about this.

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Feet of Clay: Amitav Ghosh and the Imperial Indian Gaze

-- Jason Keith Fernandes

A couple of days ago, an interview, of the part-time Goa resident author Amitav Ghosh, with Lila Azam Zanganeh for the magazine Guernica created something of a storm of outrage. Ghosh had suggested in the course of conversation, that 'one of the wonderfully liberating things about India; [is that] it lets you be exactly who you want to be.' One can see why this statement would generate a furor; a Dalit activist friend responded to this particular line by saying 'say this to a Dalit, dear writer'. How can one forget that in various parts of India, on a daily basis, people (and not just Dalits) are not allowed to be who they want to be. They are not allowed to marry who they want, or wear the clothes that they would like, nor live where they want. In very many of these cases, when these people dare to be who they want to be, they are killed.

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On Jha’s Suicide Quote

-- Prabin Dhangada Majhi

[ Prabin's article is a response to senior journalist and editor Prem Shankar Jha's comments in a 2007 CNBC discussion on reservations. The comments resurfaced again in online discussions over suicides of Dalit students in India's elite educational institutions, recently. You'll find some of Jha's comments reproduced here . And you'll find more information on the suicides of Dalit students here -- Round Table India]  

Someone, who has never been uncomfortable for decades in the absence of certain sections of society, in the profession that claims to speak for everyone, judges everyone including those who are absent, must be having strange feelings about the all-too-recent hullabaloo about representations and reservations. I 'd not call that xenophobia.

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Notes and beats of misrepresentation in Malayalam films

by Rupesh Kumar

Indian films mass mediate stereotypical images of marginalized communities like dalits and adivasis; something that is rarely challenged by anyone. The producers are almost invariably savarna/dominant caste males. The candid display of the film makers' enormous illiteracy about the history, culture and politics of adivasi and dalits cannot be countered with the same tools, as film makers from the marginalized communities are only now beginning to get a foothold in this field. Finding ways and means to challenge popular culture's devastating impact of this endless reproduction of humiliating and ignorant portrayals is therefore an urgent task. One possibility is to critique the portrayals, as consumers of films. This can bring into public conversations the topic of mass produced representational history of marginalized Indians, which is often just plain wrong.

In the first of the series, I will set the tone for such articles by randomly sampling a few Malayalam film songs.

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Notes on Forbesganj Violence

by Ashok Yadav & Khalid Anis Ansari

The police firing and subsequent killing of five OBC Muslims in Bhajanpur village in Forbesganj of Araria district in Bihar on June 3, 2011 has been analyzed in most reports in the public sphere through the frame of 'communalism' and there has been little effort to grapple with the other dimensions that the event entails. Increasingly, it is being felt that the discourse around secularism/communalism is being employed to reinforce the restorative politics of Indian ruling elite, broadly the upper caste sections of all religious identities, and is working as an instrument to subvert the counter-hegemonic peoples' solidarity at large.

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Jotiba Phule and Tilak and the question of education for Women and non-Brahmins

--Anoop Kumar

I am posting a few extracts from a paper written by Parimala V. Rao ("Educating Women and Non-Brahmins as 'Loss of Nationality': Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the Nationalist Agenda in Maharashtra").

This was published as an ocassional paper by the Centre for Women's Development Studies, New Delhi. She is also the author of 'Foundations Of Tilak's Nationalism', published by Orient Blackswan in 2010.

I have placed the extracts point-wise for easy reading; the references given below have also been quoted from the same paper.

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Maintained by the State (VII: 133)

 

Anu Ramdas

This extract is from the book Dharmatheertha, No Freedom with Caste, The Menace of Hindu Imperialism, edited by G. Aloysius:

no freedom with caste

It is clear therefore that the motive of the priests in forming an exclusive caste was not any consideration of a religious or spiritual or racial nature but one of sheer greed for wealth, women and wine. The ridiculous extent to which they went on advocating their own unimpeachable divine greatness even so late as 100 A.D. may be seen in the Manu Smriti:-

"A brahman is born to fulfill dharma. Whatever exists in this world is the property of the brahman. On account of the excellence of his origin, he is entitled to all. The brahman eats but his own food, wears his own clothes. All mortals subsists through the benevolence of the brahman."

 " Let a brahman be ignorant or learned, still he is a great deity. To brahman, the three worlds and the gods owe their existence. Thus though brahmans employ themselves in all mean occupations they must be honored in everyway, for each of them is a great deity."

" Let the king after rising early in the morning worship brahmans who are well versed in the threefold sacred sciences and learned in policy and accept their advice." (Laws of Manu, VII 37).

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On Gujarat Riots, Tehelka and Role of Dalits and Tribals

 

Anoop Kumar

[Thanks to Taha for his comment on Gujarat riots and the role of Dalits which reminded me of this particular incident. I wanted to write about this since long but keep on postponing it as I didn't have much material except what I heard at the seminar held in Pune University]

Almost two years ago, I met one activist from Chhaara tribe (a denotifed tribe that was legally notified as 'criminals' by British and were forced to remain in confined area and could never go out without police permission). All such 'criminal' tribes, basically nomadic, were forcefully settled in one place, from Maharashtra to Gujarat to UP to Rajasthan.

 Though now denotifed but the society and the administration still treats them as criminals, even after 60 years of Independence from British rule. They hardly get any jobs, have very low penetration of education and are still seen as walking criminals and treated as such by all.

Still the police comes to these 'criminal settlements' to raid and 'catch' the culprits if there is petty crime anywhere in the city and also come to arrest youth from the community to 'parade' them as culprit for some unsolved crime and sometimes pay them for that in cash

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