Utharakalam Admin

Rupesh Kumar

“Melvilasam as a cinematic text very much  and clearly exclude all the political issues raised by dalits and untouchables in the Indian history and political contexts of caste discrimination and make an
attempt  to patronizes such anti caste debates and the critics read this text as if it is depicting the ‘reality of caste’. In Indian cinema or society, ‘reality of caste’ has almost been  never  depicted and revealed and that  it is the need of the time especially in cinema to initiate a dialogue against brahmanic hegemony and patronizing attitudes. But interestingly, the film itself becomes a casteist and brahmanical covert  tool to suppress, erase and divert  the caste discussions and portray the Dalits as simply a victim, submissive and at the receiver’s end”

The celebration of “Melvilasam”, the Malayalam movie as a reaction against caste in the critical realm of Kerala scenario is nothing but a stressed effort to divert the political discussion of caste against its Brahmanical hegemony in Hinduism and  its micro works in the textualities of cinema. Melvilasam as a cinematic text very much  and clearly omit all the political reactions discussions raised from Dalits and untouchables in the Indian history and political contexts of caste discrimination and take a great stress to patronizes such anti caste debates and the critics read this text as it is depicting the ‘reality of caste’. In Indian cinema or society, ‘reality of caste’ has almost been  depicted and revealed and the it is the need of the time especially in cinema to raise up with discussions against Brahmanic hegemony and patronizing. But interestingly, the film itself becomes a casteist Brahmanic invisible tool to suppress, erase and divert  the caste discussions and portray the Dalits as simply a prey, submissive and at the receiver’s end. It is evident that in the current Indian scenario, a lot of different contextual discussions has been evoked from different Dalits spheres like academics, social media, political and social interactions by the Dalit intellectuals and other lives and they read the Dalit political history co related to their lives and reactions. And these Dalit reactionary societies read DR. Ambedkar, Phule, Kanshiram, Mayavati, Periyar and Ayyankali and lot of other leaders and intellectuals as their political guiding points from different contextualities and discuss and criticize themselves for their further movement. And these different Dalit  political societies clearly criticize and read Gandhi as an agent of caste in the Indian history and society  and analyzed and debated him as he is a Brahmanic agent of caste and supported its power structure. In the cinematic text, “Melvilasom”, the casteist Gandhi has been quoted by  Vikas Rao ,the character played by Suresh Gopi in the court martial scene to talks something against caste. This is a real underplay by this movie to hijack all other political social and debates and reactions against caste by the different complex dalit lives. The omission of international political identities and assertions against caste system like Dr. Ambedkar in this cinema is itself is a failure or the fear of this cinema to address the caste atrocities in Indian society. How can you address caste atrocities in India without quoting Dr. Ambedkar? How can you find a solution for caste by quoting Gandhi and his “harijan” terminologies? And this is the way a ‘serious’ film is down in to the pit of vulgarity in poltical discussion. This is not a first time happenings in Indian cinema, but another episode of exclusion of dalit political ideologies in caste discussions in film texts. One best other example was “Gandhi” directed by Richard Attenboroh in which Dr. Ambedkar was not even shown in single scene. Just highlight “Gandhi” as something like a cult figure, the film never mentioned Ambedkar’s name. And the movie Dr. Ambedkar directed by Jabbar Patel was yet to release in Indian society. In Melvilasam, Vikas Roy, clearly states that, “Gandhi called these people as Harijans, meaning Gods’ offspring” is a funny political statement. It has been discussed in the dalit and other political scenarios,  Harijans, the real meaning is like, the sons and daughters of Devadasis. And by this single dialogue Vikas Rao in this movie, in a society where savarnas minimized ‘caste as myth”,  they try to block the ambedkarite politics of caste and will be vain in the movement of time.

The Indian political dalit life is related with different complex streams like their internal and external experiences of physical fights, their political struggles, discussions against caste, colonies, geography,  bodies,  violence, caste atrocities they faced etc. They all characterize their extravagant dramatized life with emotions and cannot be restricted into a room of a court martial scene controlled by savarna casteist society and they never can express their true self in such a scene.  Their violent life can only be read through the political analysis of Indian colonization, geography, work culture, climate food style etc., etc.,. And their reactions cannot be minimized to a submissive and prey role like Ramachandran played by Parthiban in Melvialasam which is attributed to this character by a savarna mind set. The character Ramachandran has boxed into a strict frame of sympathy, mild reaction and tears and it is read by the Savarna mindset that Dalits do have only such emotions.  Ramachandran, who killed two superior casteist officers, is not a simple individual reaction, but it is a wholesome political reaction of this Dalit self. He has received a lot of castiest dirty comments and behaviors throughout his military life and his killings are a reaction against the caste system. But the space of the film has been minimized into the scene of a court martial, the expression for the dalit and untouchable individual Ramachandran also minimized to tears, sometimes expressionless and sometimes ‘explaining’ the story. If we look very close, regarding its shots, almost all the other Savarna characters got their prominence by close up shots on the first entry in the cinema. But only Ramachandran gets a long shot and his establishment in cinema itself is minimized and he gets an establishing close up shots after four or five shots. And  almost all his entries in the court scenes are shot in top angle shots which is a power play to minimize the prominence of the character Ramachandran. All the other savarna characters gets powerful close up shots of arrogance, kingship, ruler and all, the close up shots of Ramachandran is based on sympathy tears etc., And the person with a deep understanding and experience of caste behaving in a pathetic way in a court atmosphere where the whole scene is controlled by the savarnas is itself is technique of the casteist ideology of film making to make shut the mouth of dalits. And it is significant that the in the trial session of the case, where there is a break has been given by the presiding officer, the film doesn’t show any significant shot of Ramachandran for his reactions where in a free space dalits can be more reactive and this is a down play by the cinema itself.

And Vikas roy’s remark on manhood and cowardice to Ramachandran makes this character himself as patriarchal, patronizing and funny. He stereotypes and makes a reading like, a male and soldier should not cry.The anti caste discussions in India is lined against all these discourses and are based upon discussions including dalit feminism and addressing their different struggles with body and mind and their livings and it give space. And they address different other discussions of transgender third sexuality, homosexuality and all other alters. And Vikas Roy by his comment“males should not cry” is his lack of power to address such different upraising of sexualities in India. And his reading and comment like “you should not be a cowardice” to Ramachandran itself is castiest and it comes out of his patronizing psych. And how come a man like Ramachandran, through his own way who understood the caste discrimination through his life and struggles and mental and physical fights can be a cowardice? And living a dalit life and understanding and addressing caste atrocities itself is  dangerous and daring activity. And it is evident in this film that even after he expressed about the caste violence he received, he gets a sentence of death. Vikas Roy, who supports his naxalite brother as he has fought with arm for the poor. The history of Indian naxalism like as same as the Indian communism never gave a space for the poltical power of dalits.  The space for the political power of dalits in Indian naxalism is a always a question raised by them. And Vikas Roy, himself is adjusting with the national bodies of Indian state which is ruled and powered by savarna officials and where there is no space for dalits as “my father was a judge and I got this job through police verification”.

The actor Parthipan has a significant place in the history of Tamil cinema. His first directorial and a main character flick Puthiya Pathai (1989-tamil), which told the story of a dalit/colony and with dalit body language.  Even though the movie was adjusting with the castiest politics like killing an inter caste marriage and making into a tragedy and showing the stereotyped stuff of colonies. But Parthipan being a dalit with his body language and performance of style and action has made significant change in the grammar of heroism and performance was a different movement though it failed. And later he was really accredited to the brahmanic style of tamil cinema. And Melvilasom can be treated as the pathetic end of performanace of a dalit body with reactions through body, action and reaction. Melvilasam is the worst text limiting and controlling the reactions of dalit body and expressions and that has been clearly succeeded by using the dalit body of Parthipan. And on the opposite side, Suresh Gopi who portrayed a lot of savarna male roles is again portrayed as a  protector and hero is preserving the same sticky savarana character of Indian movies.

It is interesting to see that Indian court scenes a military officer like B.D. Kapoor even though being violent in the space of a court has been promoted in his rank.  And through Ramachandran’s experience it is revealed that Kapoor was a casteist and there are rules and articles for caste discriminations in this society. And no rules or articles has been implemented by the movie against B.D.Kapoor.. And through all these caste discriminations the presiding officer cannot read any article or formalities to do something against caste discrimination and he sentence Ramachandran should be  hanged to death. The film is ‘acting’ to reveal there is caste in Indian military, but in a casteist way.

Melvilasom is a sign board and part of so called new movement happening in Tamil and Malayalam cinema. The celeberated new movements in Tamil and Malayalam cinema, like Subrambaniapuram, Kadhal, Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, Maina, Veyil, Chappa Kurishu, Traffic, EE adutha Kalath, Beautiful, etc., dalits, women ,muslims and other alters were killed through its textualities, techincalities, through its sentiments or other techniques. Melvilasom is just one among them which kills dalits and other subaltern strata of the society.

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