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Representation of Dalit Characters in OTT Platforms: An Overview

Mr Imran Khan

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Diamond Harbour Women’s University, West Bengal, India


Caste has been a core and unique feature of the Indian society since ancient times. It refers to an endogamous social group which is identified in a number of ways, like occupation, geographical location, shared origin tales etc., and attaches itself to the four fold varna system of the Hindu society. Despite constant efforts by several reformers, caste system has not only survived but has also adjusted itself in the post-independent democratic set up of India. This is mainly because of the religious sanctity provided by the Brahmanical religious scriptures, which makes the oppression and exclusion of the dalits not only material but also cultural. This exclusion is also reflected in the bollywood movies. The issue of caste has hardly been treated with seriousness by the bollywood film makers. Even in those movies which try to highlight the caste issue, the protagonist remains a Brahmin who is projected as a saviour of the dalits. As a result, these movies fail to reflect upon the lived experiences of the dalits. However, this trend began to change with the coming of the internet and the rise of the Over The Top (OTT) platforms in the 21st Century. Though the OTT platforms entered into the Indian market in 2008, it was only with the launch of Amazon Prime, Netflix, Voot Select and others in the previous decade, the OTT platforms became a major medium of entertainment in India. But while there are works available on the projection of dalit characters in the bollywood movies, the OTT remains highly underresearched and this is the gap my paper aims to fill. The objective of this paper, therefore, is to analyse how dalit characters are represented in the OTT platforms. For this, I have chosen five characters from five different web series which include Hathiram from Paatal Lok (Amazon Prime), Nikhil Nair from Asur (Voot Select), Parminder from Aashram (MX Player), Rani Bharti from Maharani (SonyLIV) and Bharti from Ajeeb Daastaans (Netflix). There are two reasons behind selecting these web series. First, there is hardly any other fictional Hindi web series available which has a dalit protagonist. Secondly, unlike the bollywood movies in which dalit characters usually come from the peasant or working class, these dalit characters come from the elite section of the society but are still the victims of the caste oppression. This reflects upon the reality of the 21st century India in which the arrangements like reservation and democracy have ensured only social mobility but not caste mobility for the dalits. By dalit, I refer to the outcastes and untouchables who are victims of the caste based division of the Indian society. This work is limited to Hindi web series, though, it must be pointed out, that the web series made in the South Indian languages are more vocal against the caste issue. But because of my lack of knowledge of the South Indian languages, I have to restrict myself to the Hindi web series.

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