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Abstract 3

Theorizing Dalit Feminism in Mollywood; Questioning Casteist Progressive Ideology Propagated by the Mainstream Feminist Cinema

Ms Gayathri S. S., PhD Scholar, National Institute of Technology, Calicut, Kerala, India

Ever since the dismissal of P K Rosy, the first Dalit heroine of Malayalam film industry from the history, cinema has been exclusively reserved for deliberate discussion of mainstream feminism. Contemporary commercial films such as How old are You?, Gadhamma, Udhaharanam Sujatha (Sujatha, an Example), Ozhimuri (Divorce Record) etc portray strong and determined women in Keralite society. However these stereotypical feminist movies fail to reflect the undercurrents of casteism. This problematic representation leads to universalization of malayali female subjectivity. Marketing of these biased feminist ideologies is instrumental in propagating the state’s developmental discourses to reduce ‘gender gap’. While glorifying the image of ‘casteist modern Keralite woman’, who is independent and self-determined, the current female oriented commercial films fail to address issues concerning Dalit women and their plight. Brahminization of modern, ideal malayali woman devaluates the identity of Dalit woman. Besides being represented as dark- skinned and voiceless victims of upper caste patriarchy in the mainstream movies, these supposedly progressive films also deny any sort of agency for the politically marginalized women to represent themselves in the public sphere. The deliberate discussion of the challenges faced by upper caste middle class women and their plight in Kerala society, brilliantly ignore the representation of Dalit womanhood as significant. Moreover upper caste patriarchy is screened as confined within the spaces of upper caste households or concerning upper caste women only. The upper caste patriarchal brutalities towards Dalit women are completely invisible. Dalit women representations are rare and not presented in a positive light on screen. Even though certain movies include Dalit woman characters, they are unrecognizable, incapable, violent, uneducated, humorous, sexually harassed and pessimistic characters. Their lack of individuality is even more highlighted as glamorous portrayals of intellectual casteist heroines recur in the narrative.

The present paper evaluates the treatment of mainstream feminism in contemporary commercial Malayalam films and its conscious ignorance of Dalit feminism. How these films theorize Dalit feminism and the agency of Dalit female subjectivity? Are they uneducated and little progressive in the post-colonial modern sense of Kerala? Do they lack the potential to break the shackles of conventions to make their voices heard? What makes them completely absent from the list of central characters? The study will also look into the victimisation of certain Dalit female heroines in the old Malayalam movies and compare them with the Dalit women characters in contemporary commercial films.

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