ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dalit Narrative and Dalit Representation in Indian Cinema

While Hollywood has begun making some amends for the poor representation of marginalised communities, Indian cinema has a long way to go.

Directed by Rajesh Rajamani, The Discreet Charm of Savarnas (2020) is an incisive satire on “woke” Savarnas whose actions invariably perpetuate casteism. The short film is produced by Neelam Productions, director Pa Ranjith’s platform—to forward the anti-caste movement with a belief in cinema for social change. In the film, Rajamani highlights the tokenistic and patronising attitudes among the Savarna characters as they search for a “Dalit-looking” actor to play a Dalit character in their upcoming film. While it pushes for Savarnas to introspect on their messianic attitudes towards Dalits, it also entertainingly sensitises the other on the Savarna saviour attitude through the personification of the hypocritical wokeness.

When the Savarna characters in the short film can’t find a “Dalit-looking” actor to play a Dalit character, they decide to expand their search, looking for a Dalit actor. However, a Dalit actor they do find is “too beautiful to be cast as Dalit.” Therefore, they cast someone from among themselves as a Dalit, and darken their face to render a “Dalit look.” This darkening of the face to portray a Dalit character has echoes of the West’s use of the racist blackface.

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Updated On : 14th Dec, 2020

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