Rajinikanth in the 'Kaala' | Facebook
Rajinikanth in the film 'Kaala' | Facebook
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A lot of Dalit activists and progressive forces will watch this film and see a ‘Kaala’ within them too.

Getting into electoral politics and earning the bourgeois label of an MLA has given me a celebrity-like status, and has helped me reach out to the masses even more.

I would expect the same from this country’s actual celebrities. Someone like the brilliant cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has remained non-committal on taking political stands. Compare that with sporting legends abroad, who have used their platform to speak up against injustice, such as the late Muhammad Ali. In Hindi cinema, given Amitabh Bachchan’s profile, you’d expect him to stand for people, but he has never spoken up. On the other hand, Aamir Khan has occasionally taken up development projects and political positions. And then you have people like Prakash Raj, who has put his whole acting career at stake and is bravely asking questions, speaking truth to power even as it has cost him future Hindi film roles.

Seeing Rajinikanth’s larger-than-life image, his political party and his recent remarks on the police firings on civilians in Thoothukudi, I have my reservations about whether his real life imitates art. But my faith lies in Pa. Ranjith the film-maker and his political narrative, rather than Rajinikanth’s.

Ranjith’s film is a brilliant cultural response to the Brahminical ideology, and I love the fact that he has been able to harness the most commercial medium to do so. I strongly believe that alternative cinema, where you can take the liberty to be who you really are, is important, but it sadly doesn’t reach the masses. With Kaala, the director has shown how one can use pro-poor subliminal messaging in the most commercial way. Art can never be fully separated from ideology, and he brings out his politics in latent ways, and I can only hope he continues to keep making movies.

While Kaala may not be aesthetically sublime, the content was great. Our cinema has been badly affected by the post-globalisation era. After the 1990s, we hardly get to see a working class hero, a chawl, a basti, or the plight of a working widow. In this context, films like Kaala come as a relief.

Most Dalits and the working-class across the country have a feeling that their issues aren’t covered by cinema and journalism. In films like Kaala, hearing the slogans of Jai Bhim, or seeing paintings and imagery of Ambedkar and Gautam Buddha is understandably very appealing to the Dalit masses, who are otherwise invisibilised in mainstream media.

Choosing Dharavi is an important statement on bringing out contradictions between the crony capitalists, the politician class and the working class, who are Dalits. The film lacks the conventional Rajinikanth action scenes, and I don’t think one should resort to sticks and swords for justice, but it’s refreshing to see a working-class hero after years of NRI-style protagonists.

What was most poignant was how Ranjith has shown subversion and counter-culture in subtle ways. Take for instance the mythological character of Ram: even as most of the people in this country call him a ‘Bhagwan’, other accounts have also contested that he was a killer of Shambuk, who was a shudra. Meanwhile, Ravan is held as a hero for many shudras. Kaala subverts the narrative of Ram and hails Ravan as a leader of the exploited masses.

To be ‘Kaala’ is to be black, and to be black is to have known struggle. Why should we not reclaim being ‘Kaala’? Rulers always have control of machinery and state power, and when someone emerges from the masses as a struggler, they are discarded as Ravan.

When the character of Kaala is killed in the film, Ranjith comes up with the dialogue that if you cut one head off, one more will spring up – drawing a parallel to Ravan’s 10 heads. The message is clear: you tried to kill Kaala, but you can never kill dissent. Many more Kaalas will spring forth.

Friends who were watching the film in the cinema hall told me that they found me to be their Kaala. I used to be a Kabali a couple of years ago, and now I am a Kaala. A lot of Dalit activists and progressive forces will watch this film and see a Kaala within them too.

Jignesh Mevani is an independent MLA in the Gujarat assembly and convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. % The so-called oppression is nothing but a figment of imagination. People, merely being alive and doing whatever normal humans do, is being pedalled as oppression. Take TN for example, where 95% of population entitled to supremacist reservation and having captured near 100% of Govt jobs etc is categorised as backward and oppressed!

  2. Dalit Dalit Daily ! Still how long you will live on the Mercy of Others. Your Dalit sympathy will go in the next few years. Prepare yourself for the Future.

  3. Nice review and understanding of the movie by jignesh. This is more a directors movie, than the superstar’s and a mirror of the socio-political drama happening in India for centuries, the circumstances, geography and life style may keep changing, but this hierarchy of the dominant classes oppression on people and their protectors just won’t die. Many people here talking as if caste is not a problem, and as if dalits have reaped huge benefits since independence. What a bull shit?.. don’t they even see or read news..they very well practice caste associations in relationships, friendships, business, cultural, festivities in every walk of life..even in death and burial..but would talk like caste doesn’t exist…and then there is whining over reservations…when discrimination is caste based reparations like reservations must be caste based..if you want to help the poor yet more respected and hence automatically previleged people, give them loans and subsidies, but not reservations which has a specific purpose and meaning…
    And to those cursing jignesh…not all the dalits who enter politics are at least as bold and honest as he is.
    The president is no better than a dummy puppet in hands of bjp-rss..
    It’s not such spineless namesake leaders, but leaders like jignesh who are the voice for the oppressed that are needed today…his openness in complimenting on a south Indian movie that caught the attention of whole south Indian politics show’s his commitment to dalit diaspora

  4. Though I am not a dalit, I am up for their cause.

    Lot of Brahmins, Brahminized OBC s have commented here trolling and abusing Jignesh. I can’t answer them for all questions, but would like to clarify fundamental thoughts.

    Jignesh was and is never against BRAHMINS, but against BRAHMIN ICAL IDEOLOGY.

    Many Brahmins have opposed Brahmincal Ideology including Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Dayanand Saraswathi.

    Remember Ideology is different from People.

    Not all Brahmins follow Brahmincal Ideology.

    Brahminized OBC s and BC s are real problem.

    And in movie Kaala, villain Haridada is never shown as BRAHMIN.

    He might be Brahminised OBC as he was former Rowdy.

  5. I read many of the comments here, some clarifications:

    1. Cleansing of Bramhins….no one says this…its the cleaning of Bramhanical culture…everywhere…can u see, why only dalits are sweepers…why not a single bramhin?

    No one is against Bramhins…it is the wrong thinking, the Bramhanical thinking.

    2. Jignesh Mevani is not pseudo..he is an elected independent MLA. No one in this time have this much courage to speak , and to win wìthout resources.

    3. Ravana was a bramhin, still he is considered as a leader of dalits in the movie…and in the society. This itself shows that it is the Bramhanical ideology on which we differ.

    Rama killed a Shambuk named dalit….whatever reason may be,,,but he killed…thìs shows that a killer should be simply opposed.

    Last,

    Castes are not created by british… it is there in th indian culture since ages…. a daĺit is given a different glass of water and treated ill….has it started after british…can you be atleast true to yourself. It is written in Manu’s script that Shudra should be differentiated

    British have organized above by giving the numbers to rule in good way.

    So, plz be cautious while writing any nonsense

  6. Hi Jignesh i enjoyed reading this article thank you!

    Specially where you started with your stake on the ground (your beliefs) and finished off with a reaffirmation of the stake….done with subtle “diplomacy”. Well done!!

    I’m now hoping that we have several like minded individuals in your area of work and with the common fabric of kindness and tolerance towards all. Cheers!

  7. Mewani and party are opportunists who want to take advantage of the common people of Indian by dividing them in brahmin, dalit, etc … all this is nonsense we all are one and don’t need a kamina neta like you.

  8. Jignesh has written simply to attack Hindutva without even knowing the facts.
    While Lord Ram was a kshatriya, Ravan, born to Pulastya Maharishi, one of the Saptarishis, was a Brahmin by birth.

  9. Jignesh Mevani type of politicians massively connive secessionist activities to make fool of the society at name of so-called Dalits, who have been able to get their political & economical bounties since past 70 years at cost of other economically suppressed communities.
    #Aarakshan Zindabad!!!

  10. A good review of Kaala… speaking Dalits issues in main stream cinema itself is a dream come true…it is a period of dalit uprising… can cinema be far behind…kudos to Ranjith for his brave attempt…

  11. Let me tell you Brahmins are being portrayed in a wrong manner by all these filmakers and politician.Go and search in the net what gandhi said -he said like dalits there many poor brahmins who need help.Whether you are dalit or any other caste dont let these politicians divide us.Let me tell you there are lot of poor brahmins who have come up in life without any reservation and other benefits.There are some brahmims who have not got college seat even after getting good marks due to reservation for other caste.If some brahmin has done something wrong you should take action on that person and not think entire brahmin society is bad.Its like saying a muslim who bombs a place and we have to arrest all Muslims because all are terrorists.These politicians think eradication of Brahmins will lead to upliftment of Dalits, which is complete bullshit.I can say for sure majority of Brahmins help people irrespective of caste.Me and my family have friends from different sections of society.Brahmins are good people don’t project them as bad.All these caste systems were started during British period to divide us.The Britishers are very successful in doing so.Kindly rethink people.Stay united.

  12. Hahaha ….see the irony ! This self proclaimed dalit massiah eugalizes two brahmins – one Ravan and two, RaGa !

  13. This psuedo-intellectual has forgotten the fact that, historically most of the Dravidian political parties were aversive to lord Ram & there has been a tradition to consider Raavan-a shaiva Brahmin as their hero..now Rajani is foraying into muddier waters of Dravidian politics, it is no surprise to done a Kaala now..
    And for this Mewali, the celebrities who stand up & espouse the political idelogies of his kind are the only celebrity-activist whereas celebrities who stand for contradictory ideologies are not activists..These types of a******es always have a habit of perceiving the things from their own color.
    In the last,This Bc’s narsisstic attitude is reflective in his concluding paragraph comparing himself with Kabaali & Kaala ..saala Mewali ?

  14. Kindly get your facts right. Ravan was son of a rishi from bhramin clan. So he is a brain by birth. Not sure why all the yet to be center stage political parties are taking time to hit at this particular clan. Stop spreading hatred. Kindly proceed with what you can accomplish for benefit of your community. If possible then , you can think about taking India forward.

  15. Jignesh Mevani r u a dalit can you please describe how. You people divided the country in between forward and dalit. Just play your politics on dalit. You know today my country first man is dalit ” I am proud my President Shri Ramnath Govind. All the Law and order issue you have create a dalit card. But my country people very inteligent and understand you thinking.

  16. The film is based on absurd unreality. Dharavi is no.doubt populated by south Indians especially Tamils but the dominant castes are Nadars from Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Thevars from Ramanathapuram. Both these communities are not favourably disposed to each other in Tamilnadu but are openly antagonistic to.Dalits in TN. Dharavi in reality is not a Dalit story. By planting Dalits in a Dharavi milieu just as he did in Kapali Renjith is showing unreality. He showed the minority Chinese in Malaysia as villain in Kapali ( not the malay muslims) and in Kaala he shows Maharashtrians as villains. Nana Patekar’s surname is Abhyankar, a chitpavan brahmin. Renjith does not have the courage to.show a TN milieu and portray either thev Nadar or Thevar or Vanniyar as villain. A wasted film.for Rajanikanth. The only redeeming feature is Nana Patekar.

  17. I haven’t seen the movie yet, however I would like to comment on Ram, Shambhuka and Ravan case based on this article.

    Shambuka was killed not because he was shudra but he was doing austerity for destruction. Ravan was killed because he did wrong things and Ravan is Brahmin. So why don’t anyone say that Ram killed “Brahmin Ravan.”

    Ravan was a north Indian however many thinks that he is from south.

  18. Jignesh,u have been given a opportunity to serve the people,do it .a wrong cannot be corrected by doing more wrong.get over the past , make peace with the present, hope for future as one =indians

  19. The reservation given to particular community much more years which Ambedkar recommended for.By now society should be categorized as just Indian the lack thing left out by politicians these film makers doing dividing society in name of kala n goes.you could have picked topic like girls safety, terrorism and corruption. Not great idea I am sure even Dalits won’t be liking to address them as Dalit

  20. After 50 years, we should focus on economical stratification as opposed to caste based.
    I know people who are brahmins and poor. They have no chance of coming up in life with reservations everywhere.
    As long as we have caste based reservation, our country will not progress no matter what resources we have. It’s a pity..of course it helps politicians and they will never let people change it..we blame UK for divide and rule – that’s exactly what we are doing to ourselves…

  21. Evn 70 years with so much of handholding from all govts,cthe dalits and backward class bait for brahmins goes unabated….the country is loser…the caste hindus + dalits + conversion lobbyist from overseas wants to divide the country and they have these bigots to support them

  22. India is a nice country. It is secular, but there are special provisions for various religions. It is socialistic, but there are special provisions for various class and caste. Constitution guarantees equality before law, but there also special provisions. Backward forward are determined by caste of a person. In states where people of particular religion or caste are more in numbers are also considered privileged for their caste or religion. Suitability of admission, appointment or even promotion are determined primarily by caste, the merit is secondary. Privileged class citizens can say any thing about others but nothing can be told about privileged class citizens. Jai hind.

  23. Nayagan was a similar film with struggle of the masses, without quite touching the caste parameter. Pa Ranjith as a film director cannot but make films without the dalit perspective, which clearly restricts the artists’ repertoire. Thw writer of this article is viewing this film from a very narrow angle of dalit emasculation, rahther than as a film for the people. Mixing serious politics and films is not a good cocktail. Dalit issues cannot be handled via a film and the write up of this author is clouded with his dalit view and an inappropriate review of a mediocre film

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