Bijukumar Damodaran’s Veyilmarangal — like his different tales — can also be dream-like, however set in a actuality we ruthlessly ignore.
Historically, Indian cinema exploited the labour of Dalits in its making, while erasing or appropriating their tales. This was not an unintentional apply. When their tales have been instructed on display, it will be by savarnas who additionally performed their characters with patriarchal, sexist and casteist undertones.
The state of affairs has slowly modified, and the id of Dalit characters in cinema — directed by a Dalit (and some non-Dalit) filmmakers — has turn into express, transcending boundaries of caste and sophistication. These filmmakers have helped form visible storytelling that mixes “justice with aesthetics”.
“Justice with aesthetics” was not often current in cinema made by savarnas, or it was seldom sincere. Dalit-Bahujan filmmakers have stuffed this hole, whereas creating a brand new wave of cinema that’s extra interesting to a Dalit-Bahujan viewers.
In this collection, we look at 10 Indian movies that depend not solely among the many most interesting cinema the nation has produced, however are additionally intertwined with justice, politics, and aesthetic.
A boy sails in a ship throughout a silent sea. He sees a door amid the expanse of water and enters via it. Lightning cracks open a cloud overhead; a deluge ensues. The boy appears to be like again and sees that the doorway has caught hearth.
Bijukumar Damodaran’s Veyilmarangal (Malayalam; 2019) begins like this. Like his different tales, this one too is dream-like however set in a actuality we ruthlessly ignore. To watch Veyilmarangal is to witness this fact your self.
Eight Dalit households keep on a marshy island in Kerala, as if such an island was made for Dalits solely. Veyilmarangal follows the story of 1 amongst these households. This household includes a person, his spouse, and their teenaged son — a dreamer. The couple works on a building web site as handbook labourers; the son sells peanuts by the roadside. He is continuously threatened by the police to maneuver his peanut store. In highly-educated Kerala, he’s unnoticed of the college system.
Their residence has a thatched roof and picket plank partitions. During the monsoons, the roof leaks and the winds break open the window. One night time, because the rain lashes down with unrivalled depth, the household is alerted by a neighbour that they need to evacuate the island instantly. Within the house of some minutes, they need to depart their residence, carrying nothing with them. The island is submerged by morning. Their residence, belongings, and reminiscences too sink beneath the darkness of the water.
The father seeks work at a restaurant; his co-worker helps him discover a room for his household to remain in. In Kerala, the bastion of communism, not everybody has a home with a backyard. Some are unnoticed within the imaginative and prescient of improvement; right here too, some are homeless. This is the fabric deprivation many Dalits face.
When the daddy is travelling by bus in the future, he’s accused of pickpocketing. He is taken to the police station, stripped and stored in lock-up for an evening. He is allowed to go residence solely the subsequent morning, as a sub-inspector informs him that the complainant withdrew after discovering his pockets at residence. This is the humiliation many Dalits face.
Hurt, the daddy realises that not solely does he don’t have any residence, he additionally has no respect in his own residence state. He is afraid to depart Kerala as a result of he is aware of no language apart from Malayalam. But his personal state doesn’t assure him, a Dalit, a lifetime of dignity.
His colleague has a relative who works in an apple orchard in Himachal Pradesh; the daddy seeks his assist and secures the job of a safety guard on the orchard. The household units off for the mountains of Himachal.
Each body of Veyilmarangal — whether or not it depicts tragedy, irony or hope — is full of the form of magnificence and sensibilities that we not often discover in Indian cinema. Bijukumar Damodaran is a genius, inventing frames which make even the film’s silences converse with you. We witness this because the Dalit household reaches Himachal.
The landlord on the apple orchard — a dominant caste pahadi man — affords the meagre cost of Rs 7,000 to the household; there is no such thing as a query of turning down the low wages. They clear the deserted home within the orchard and remodel it into their abode. Slowly, they begin adapting to life within the mountains. All three work. The son finds a lamb; he feeds it, cares for it, nurses it to well being. They survive via the chilly winds, snow and deadly chilly of the Himalayas.
Two months go by, and the owner is but to pay them their wage. When the daddy asks, he’s fobbed off with some excuse. Then, the owner reveals up on the home together with his accountant, orders him to settle their dues, and asks the household to vacate the place instantly. He factors to a stranger with a child in his arms and says, “Ab se ye yaha kaam karenge, aadhe paise mein (any further, he’ll work right here for half the cash).” The landlord has discovered even cheaper labour to exchange the household with.
The father finds no use in resisting this utter injustice. They pack their baggage, and the boy picks up his lamb, and so they begin strolling out. The landlord snatches the lamb from the boy. The boy tries to get it again; feeling “polluted” by the contact of a Dalit, the owner begins to beat the boy. The father can’t stand this. He rushes inside the home, picks up the gun he was given for guarding the orchard, and factors it on the landlord. “We have raised this lamb,” he asserts. “It belongs to us.”
The household slowly walks down the slender, rutted highway. Their displacement is captured within the type of a yellow door, just like the one the boy has seen in his goals. The door stands for the boy’s want to have a everlasting residence from which nobody can take away them. But ultimately, these houses maintain burning down, or disappearing, or must be deserted.
Many Dalits’ lives are like this, spent in pursuit of a dreamland. Caste-society all the time burns down the door to their goals, and displaces them in their very own land. Yet, their actual battle lies in by no means dropping hope of their dream, or belief of their labour. Veyilmarangal superbly, subtly and magically captures this. The final dialogue between son and father affirms it:
Son: Father, the place are we going?
Father: Where do all birds go? Like them, we’ll additionally go.
Yogesh Maitreya is a poet, translator and founding father of Panther’s Paw Publication, an anti-caste publishing home. He is pursuing a PhD on the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
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