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Casting out Caste: Introspecting the Absence of Caste Representation in 21st Century Bengali Film Genre

Mr Pijush Dutta

Undergraduate Student, Department of Bengali, Jadavpur University, West Bengal, India

Ms Olivia Banerjee,

Undergraduate Student, Department of Sociology, Presidency University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India


As Elihu Katz mentioned in his book, 'Public Opinion and the Communication of Consent', mass media creates a concord of reality, regardless of how far from reality the consensus may be. Living in a pluralistic, diverse country, suffering and struggling from the history of

class, caste, social and gender disparity, the portrayal of a masculine, romantic hero, fastidious of maintaining an image of Indian cohesiveness is a popular genre highlighted in the Hindi cinema. This strategic gesture has been a conscious attempt to integrate the elite

upper class section, distanced from leftist/liberal outlooks, alienated from the concerns of social hierarchy, and taking pride in maintaining a false Indian unity picture. The paper deals with the specific intricacies of the fallacy reproduced in the Bengali film culture of the 21st century. The regular Friday release of commercials, showcasing marriage with an upper caste as a struggle against caste atrocities, gender harassment, and art-house movies dealing with mindless romance sequels and urban elite crisis, announce a clear depiction of submergence with Bollywood narratives, integration with the upper caste/class outlooks, and concentrating the entire Bengal narrative in metropolitan Kolkata. Secondly, the recent popularity of detective films, also coincides with satiating the thirst for depiction of

the Bengali bhadralok, in possession of family lineage mansions, smoking a cigar, and dwelling deep with a tough intellectual question. This creation of the masculine, intellectual, perfect 'Bangali Babu', has left no space for the representation of lower caste people,

common-sensically perceived as weak, and less fancy from the westernised upper-caste submerged lense. The meagre depiction also attributes with the presence of an urban upper class philanthropic Babu, sympathizing with the problems of the former, and leading his

struggle for fairer rights and representation. Suffering is sold and commercialised in chiaroscuro for satiating the 'aesthetics of art'.

Simultaneously, conscious political films like 'Para' and 'Joy Bhim' have appeared in Malayalam movie genre as a result of Kerala's long struggle against the casteist tradition. The Malayalam film has filled the gaps in representing the caste system, prevalent in the Bengal production. Conflicts between lower caste people and upper caste people have appeared in Malayalam films. Our focus lies in comparing the presence and studying the effectiveness of the screening in the Malalyam movie industry. The paper strives to question the absence of caste representations in popular cinema discourse of Bengali genre, despite being repeatedly casted in the film culture of Kerala. It

aims to look at the ruling out of social concerns with the political, cultural and regional history and struggle of the two states, affecting the portrayal in the silver screen. Exploration of the cultural capitalisation of the Bengal entertainment industry also remains an important segment.

Keywords: caste, cinema, Bengal, Bhadralok, chotolok, Kerala, dalit, commercialisation,

representation, culture, struggle

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