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Narratavizing Subjective Aesthetics and Caste-Identity Politics: A Semiotic Analysis of Pa. Ranjith’s Films Sarpatta Parambarai and Madras

Mr R. Sanjay Pandy

Postgraduate Student, Department of English and Cultural Studies, Christ University, Bangalore, Karnataka, India


The role of dominant and dominated entities in Tamil films changed immensely through their semiological representation and resultant spectatorship of intersectional socio-political caste-based identities in the contemporary Dalit-Bahujan wave films. The 'assertion' of cinema as a public sphere and a medium to exhibit caste intersections in urban conceptual frameworks has been conveyed in the selected visual texts Sarpatta Parambarai(2021) and Madras (2014). The director Pa. Ranjith signifies the identity politics and 'subjective' aesthetics regionally; here, it is 'North' Chennai and the lab or population to portray the representation in an 'authentic' way. The inclusion of the cinematic gazes of these nuanced intersections has been incorporated in the contested discursive space, which is analysed with the 'auteur' theory and semiotically signified connotations behind the considered visual texts in this study 1. These texts of the above-mentioned 'auteur' are qualitatively analysed to view the change in power dynamics in representing the region with the aesthetical quotient. Concurrent assertion of the one's perspective viewing related themes of discrimination and invisibilisation through the anti-caste aesthetics is analysed in the present semiological study of the auteur's select works. As stated by the author Meena Dhanda about "Philosophical foundations of anti-casteism," one could rethink the conceptual framework. Anti-casteism critiques the assumptions that promote the necessity or inevitability of creating caste distinctions (2020). Suraj Yengde further notes the 'Dalit Cinema'and the need for its prevalence. The 'Indian' film industry does not recognize or provide a voice to Dalit music, art, literature, or food and neglects Dalit creative or autonomous subjectivity(2018). However, the political mediascape of the Tamil cinema's newfound counter-narratives to the relevant socio-political issues with the recent description stated by the auteur is viewed qualitatively with the 'presumptive assertion' lens of the critic Noël Carroll predominately focusing on the anti-casteism through aesthetics and subjugation portrayed in the films 2. The auteur had symbolically represented the Dalit-Bahujan narrative by affirming the identity politics to exhibit gaze in showcasing the everyday aesthetics of the urban landscape's issues and livelihood through subjective resistance on screen. The significance of the spectatorship involved in representing the lived-in experience, ideological signs, clothing, and political figures in a public space is looked into here. The films focusing on the Dravidian Politics with caste intersections deal with the hierarchy behind the system through an anti-caste aesthetic narrative. The study also focuses on the protagonist's livelihood to assert the lived-in Dalit-Bahujan identity in the film. These texts deal with the localised communities' identity politics and aesthetics with assertion and against discrimination by confronting acts of violence on-screen through subjective 'visual' resistance. The above aspects are methodologically viewed through the visual study of semiotics as a direct approach to understanding the identity politics and differences in contemporary films through the connotative system for semiology by Roland Barthes, primarily in the Indian context and in accord with the films' characterisation of identity politics and aesthetics 3. Further, the notions of representation on screen are carried out by observing the framing to analyse the context, such as by the critics M.S.S Pandian and M.Madhava Prasad to signify the assertion and aesthetical representation of the caste identity through caste-based and Dravidian politics 45.

Keywords: Identity, representation, semiology, assertion, gaze, politics, auteur, aesthetics

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