Dalit Citizenship through Indian films
Dr Smitana Saikia, Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Sciences, Azim Premji University, Karnataka, India
Mr Vinay Kumar, Academic Associate, School of Arts and Science, Azim Premji University, Karnataka, India
This paper will use political and anthropological theories and frameworks to establish Dalit citizenship that has emerged in pan-Indian cinema over the last decade. It will look at films from various Indian language films made for the popular and aimed at a theatrical release. Telugu and Tamil cinema has changed the social, cultural and political fabrics of the Telugu and Tamil speaking states. In Karnataka, the success of the Gokak agitation ( a successful language rights agitation in the 1980s) has historically been credited to Kannada actors who stepped up when the agitation started poorly.
Films and cinema in the country have undoubtedly been powerful propaganda devices. They have significantly shaped the socio-political and cultural identities of stars. And often, films re-affirmed some identities as more powerful and dominant. When films began offering a Dalit protagonist and narratives of the Dalit as one that asserts power against an oppressor, it created resistance against a powerful narrative. This powerful opposition is produced in a charged socio-political climate of Hindutva where Dalits continue to be targeted for their identity. The paper thus argues that this emerging identity in films offers resistance when released in theatres which also screen popular propaganda films that actively reinforce a Dalit identity that’s marginalised and dehumanised.