Do you know who shudras are, mr. Jaiswal ?
|Forward Press Magazin|
From “Achoot Kanya” to “Aarakshan”, Bollywood has produced a string of films on the theme of shudras and untouchability. Though the number of such films might not be very large no one can say that the Hindi Film world has not touched these issues. The question, however, is of the right attitude, of putting things in the correct perspective.
The films that ware made before ‘Shudra: The Rising’ were primarily aimed at exploiting this issue for box office success. I would like to keep commercially successful films like ‘Delhi-6’, ‘Rajneeti’ and ‘Aarakshan’ also in the same category.
‘Shudra:The Rising’ Got stuck in the Censor board and this fact was widely publiciesed through facebook and other media.
Finally, the film was released on 19 October. There ware complaints that no multiplex was ready to screen the film. This also triggered a spate of SMSes. I saw the film on 23 October. The film begins with a photograph of Dr. Ambedkar. It goses on to realate how the alien Aryans pushed back the original inhabitants of India and enslaved them. Then Manu wrote this law-book ‘Manusmriti’, which divided society into various castes.
After this prelude begins the narrative. A woman of the Shudra neighborhood (whether the residents are Shudras or untouchables/Atishudras is not clear ) is summoned by the village thakur to his haveli. The thakur’s musclemen drag ther forcibly to the thakur’s place, where sandalwood paste is applied on her body and she is presented before the thakur in his bedroom. The scene of sexual intercourse has been filmed in great detail. The attempt to portray it as rape comes cropper. On the other hand, the husband of the woman, who is injured while resisting the thakur’s musclemen , dies. Shudra viewers are naturally dismayed by the portrayal of a shudra woman as a commodity. After all, hasn’t section of feudals been claiming the shudras are its illegitimate offspring?
The film has no story worth its name and script is very weak. No actor could imbibe his or her character. The film seems to be set in an era at least 200 years back, when the untouchables had to move around with a ‘gadga’ hanging from their necks and a broom tied to their waists. The women characters of the film do not feel or look like oppressed or untouchable. The have threaded eye-brows, wear lipstick and the way they walk or even cry is ultra-modern.
The male Shudra characters also have well trimmed beards and distinctive hair-style. They appear quite healthy and well-fed. In the entire film, they keep on screaming at the top of their voices for no apparent reason. The film has utterly disappointed those members of the audience, who were impatiently waiting for its release. The film’s Shudras are sometimes shown making earthen pots and sometimes, bamboo baskets. At another place, one character says, “We are Shudras. We carry your excreta on our heads but you avoid even our shadow”. Thus, it is not clear whether the residents of the tola are shudras or untouchables. Probably, Sanjive Jaiswal himself does not know who Shudras are.
This film raises the issue of humiliation of Shudras but does not move an inch beyond it. The film was publiciesed claiming that it was based on Dr.Ambedkar book ‘who were the shudras?’ This book is a research work, which has shown the lit to millions. Dalit movement’s well-known SMS group DMAINDIA was among the SMS group that publiciesed this film. All this done spontaneously because the film- makers had referred to Dr.Ambedkar and is book in the posters and promotional material for the film.
During the campaign, thousands of people received SMSes, asking them to make calls or send SMSes to particular numbers. The SMSes said that if these calls were made and SMSes sent, the Censor Board would clear the film. The same kind of clam was made on Face book. It is difficult to say whether the film’s writer-director Sanjeev jaiswal had any hand it this rum our. It later transpired the Censor Board had never said that if a certain number of calls or SMSes were received the film would be cleared.
My personal view is that ‘Shudra: The Rising’ is a failure from every angle-story, script, dialogue and direction. The irritants in the film are too many to be listed. Jaiswal deserves praise for only one reason: he dared to make such a film. The film may have failed to click bit it has paved the way for others to undertake similar ventures. Dalit literature is quite rich and scores of stories, novels and autobiographies, based on which an excellent film could have been made, were available. Had that been done, the 85percent oppressed people would have scripted a historic success for the film. Unfortunately, that was not to be. We can only hope that in future, better films will be made on this theme.
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