What’s my Caste

“आप कौनसी जाती के हो ??”

This was the second question a farmer asked me when I happen to visit a lake in his village to catch a glimpse of the migratory birds that arrive each winter. Well the first one was where I was from!!

I was at a loss of words, who asks a complete stranger in first meeting about his caste? Or does which caste I belong to define who I am? Or he wanted to make sure whether I was worth having a conversation with?

For the first 2 decades of my life I wasn’t too aware of the caste structures, its intricacies and the prejudices that followed it. It wasn’t something that needed answers while growing up.

Was it because of the privileged background that I came from or was it for the fact that I carried a surname that stood out ?? I am sure the answer to both the above is definitely a YES!!

At home no one discussed it and at my school no one bothered about caste. It was only the Mandal Agitation that bought it out but again it was in the margins only.

It was only after I moved back to Udaipur in 2000 that the caste, sub-caste and the practiced hierarchy was revealed.

I am glad that this factor seldom crossed my mind then and even now. I personally do not want to fit myself into these brackets. As a political worker I keep getting these suggestions to play up my caste equation, for it will ensure that I get a minimum assured support from my ‘community’.

Lucky are those who can play it up for their advantage, I would much rather attach with all the possible identities that the God has blessed me with and not confine myself to one sub-set !!

And till the time I keep doing this, I will always be at a loss to answer a question on my ‘जाती’. Let others imagine my identity, for in my head I will be no different from the one I am standing next to.

BTW the farmer at the end of our conversation offered us some fresh मूली and गन्ने from his farm to take back to the answer of his first question i.e. our home in Udaipur.

ARTICLE 15

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ARTICLE 15

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to—

     (a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or

     (b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.

Article 15 is the second in the list of the Fundamental Rights that the Indian Constitution guarantees to its Citizens.

This movie as the name suggests is based on this very Right. Ayushman Khurana plays this young IPS officer who after graduating from St. Stephens and studying abroad returns to join the Indian Police Services to fulfil his father’s wishes and gets posted to this back and beyond of Uttar Pradesh for using the term ‘Cool Sir!!’ with Shastriji – The Home Secretary.

As he takes charge of his office the area get embroiled in the missing and eventually deaths of two teenage Dalit Girls and the search for the third one. There is the caste equation in play and the need to maintain a given Social Order for everyone to live in harmony. His girlfriend who is an activist based in Delhi who acts as his emotional – guiding anchor and shows him the way.

B.R. Ambedkar exhorted Dalits to flee the countryside and move to the cities to escape the shackles of caste. “The love of the intellectual Indian for the village community is of course infinite, if not pathetic,” wrote Ambedkar. “What is a village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?” This is what the setting in the film epitomizes.

This movie has three main stand out heros, namely :

  1. Ayushman Khurana – The last movie I saw of his was Andhadhun and in that review I had written that he is turning into 21st Century’s Amol Palekar considering the characters he was playing, how wrong I was !! This is a film he owns the role of the anglicised Police Officer. The depth, the gravitas and the dilemma is such enacted perfectly.
  2. Anubhav Sinha – It took him nearly 17 years to find his calling in the kind of movies he wanted to make. From touching the Hindu – Muslim divide in Mulk and now handling the Caste Equations in this ones. He doesn’t sugar coat the harsh reality of today’s India. There is no holding back and and he spares no one and calls out the names as they stand.
  3. Dialogues – What crackling dialogue !! Hitting out on the political parties, the caste  system and the system, to quote a few:
  • “Main Or Tum Inhai Dekhai He Nahe Dete… Hum Kabhi Harijan Hojate Hai, Kabhi Bahujan Ho Jate Hain Bus Jan Nahe Ban Pa Rahain Hai… Ke Jan Gan Mein Hamari Bhe Ginte Ho Jai”
  • “Jo hum dete hain vahi aukaat hai sir”

jpr78646467573897193-largeWhat we see in this movie is not that happens something in some far away land, not too far from the cities we live in a Dalit Gdalitroom can’t ride on a Horse, no one wants to eat from a Dalit’s hands in schools that are supposed to remove this very idea of untouchability.

How long before the millennial old notions of social order is finally consigned to flames?

How long before we start accepting the idea of everyone being equal before even talking against reservations??

Go watch this movie for it deserves not only to be seen and but also to be imbibed.

DHADAK

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This movie had everything going from it from its inception namely:

  • It was the launch vehicle of new kids on the block i.e. Late Sridevi & Boney Kapoor’s daughter – Jhanvi and the Stepbrother of Shahid Kapoor – Ishaan Khatar.
  • It was produced by one of my favourite Production Houses i.e. Karan Johar’s Dharma Production.
  • It was a remake of the highly acclaimed Marathi Film – Sairaat.
  • The promos looked fabulous, well all big budget production house films have excelled in this front.
  • It was based and shot in my UDAIPUR which was recently voted as the 3rd best city in the world.

For us the movie aficionados it was all the reasons to watch this one First Day First Show, after all didn’t want the other reviews to cloud my judgement about DHADAK.

The plot is about this lead pair who while studying in college flirt and fall in love much to the despair of both the families as the girl is a royalty from ‘UNCHI JAATI’. The first half is all about these innocent flirtations building up to the point where they caught and eventually run away from Udaipur far away from the families’ wrath all this happens before the interval. The second half is about them restarting and building their life in a new city and culminating into a climax that is shocking.

The movie touches many themes such as Casteism, Rajasthan’s erstwhile Rulers adapting to new India – being part of Democracy / Electoral Politics and Honour Killing. The songs are great but they seemed forced in the movie, I mean haven’t Dharma Productions heard of the concept of songs as a medium of taking the story forward. This is the least that can be expected from them.

The first half is engaging as we have actual young actors playing out as students and not some 30+ and Udaipur is shown in all its glory. Then second half is all downhill after that nothing seems to be happening to keep me engaged. Ishaan Khattar stands out as innocent naïve one of the pair while Jhanvi has shades of her mother but she definitely has a long way to go. Someone also please tell Ashutosh Rana to act in films in which he is not always angry.

Another jarring point as a native of Udaipur is that Rajasthan is not always to be equated with desert that is just in the north western part of Rajasthan, like that the filmmakers tried showing in the opening sequence. We love our kachoris, ghewar and churma but an eating competition is way tooooo stereotyping!! And where did the dialect come from?? There is no one standard Rajasthani that is spoken in my state, what we speak in Udaipur is Mewari which definitely doesn’t sound like it has been spoken in the film. All the above stereotyping would have been forgotten only if the movie was entertaining.

If you are interested in watching a movie on honour killing I would recommend Qayamt se Qayamat Tak or Sairaat if you have Netflix (I for one is soon watching it) instead. This film is about the heartbeat but the heart is definitely missing for it is lost somewhere in the adaption stage.