Monday, Jun 27, 2022
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Tamil Cinema

‘Dalithood’ In Kollywood: The Dalit Magic In Tamil Cinema

Increasingly angry and anarchic, a new spate of Tamil films are embracing—even asserting—their inherent Ambedkarite politics in ways that are both revolutionary and rewarding

‘Dalithood’ In Kollywood: The Dalit Magic In Tamil Cinema
Up in arms Dhanush in Karnan

In the latest Netflix thriller Thar, Satish Kaushik plays a lower caste cop named Bhure, who at one point, offhandedly mentions to his senior officer (Anil Kapoor) that “the uniform at least hides my jaati (caste).” A few scenes later, a family elder asks Kaushik for a cigarette. When he hesitates, the old man quips, “The cigarette has no caste.” Watching this exchange makes one wonder what if Thar was directed in Tamil by the likes of Pa. Ranjith, Mari Selvaraj, Leena Manimekalai or Vetrimaaran. One easy guess is—such a film would have been titled Bhure and Kaushik would have been its exalted hero instead.

In recent years, Tamil cinema has been touched and torched in equal measure by Dalit magic. All the directors listed above by way of wishful examples are Madras Talkies’ rebels, whose anarchic oeuvre deals with the disquieting intention of shaking your very soul and waking you up to the grim realities of Indian life involving caste and tribal politics. The oppression and stigma that people from the bottom rank of the society face has been depicted in the most brutal fashion possible in recent Tamil hits like Karnan, Asuran, Sarpatta Parambarai, Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale, Pariyerum Perumal, Jai Bhim and Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu.

One striking aspect about the increasing presence of Dalit politics in Kollywood is the masterful ways in which the directors make use of symbols and metaphors to drive home their point as well as uplift the meaning of good and engaging cinema
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