"Screening Caste" Screening of films from Dalit perspectives

Commission on Dalits, National Council of Churches in India
‘Screening Caste’
Screening of films from Dalit perspectives and discussion to make a film on the plight of Dalit Christians

In partnership with
Christian Dalit Council, Trivandrum, Kerala
Dr MM Thomas Study Centre, Thiruvalla, Kerala.

Venue: CDC Centre, Trivandrum, Kerala
Date: 18th December, 2012


Music, art, drama and films are different forms of media, in which Dalits also try to bring forth the expressions of self affirmation and rejection of hierarchy. Even though the ‘digital divide’ is so vast, Dalits are able to be brave enough to use the media as well as new media as part of the Dalit expressions. Revamping the energy of folk music and other folk traditions and tying it up with the mainstream media is a new form of Dalit re- assertion in Indian society and media. Though media is governed by the capitalist interests, a continual and vigilant interference of the educated, activist, and creative Dalits make use of the media in their own ways to promote the idea of equality and justice.

Documentaries/ films are real documentation of the real life situation of the Dalits. This could be used as a tool to conscientise people as well as could be submitted to the authorities as proof in certain cases. On the other side, by making these documentaries and becoming part of them, Dalits claim their share in that wider form of media. They are able to interfere and make positive changes from the Dalit perspectives in the politics of media.

But when the Dalits/those who are solidarity with Dalits try to express Dalit issues using media the governing systems, casteist people, and the established media try to curb the activities using variable strategies. ‘Papilio Buddha’, a film which is created with a definite focus on Dalit issues and portrayal of Dalits’ political and religious affirmation, was negated the approval on the flimsy ground by the sensor board. But the higher authority later on gave the needed certificate after strong voices raised by the Dalits and those who support the cause. The question of the freedom of expression and Dalit affirmation was raised at the backdrop of this event.

As part of the intervention of the Commission on Dalits in the scenario of the use of newer and effective forms of media in fighting the caste system and the challenges raised against it by the dominant caste society, ‘Papilio Buddha’ and ‘3 D Stereo Caste’ (documentary) were screened for an audience, at the AICUF centre in Trivandrum, Kerala. (pic)

Mr. V. J. George, the chairman of the national Council of Dalit Christians, welcomed the gathering. Rev Sunil Raj Philip presented the concept. Dr Simon John was the moderator of the discussions.

‘3D Stereo caste’, which is a documentary on the caste system that has been prevalent in the arena of music, was screened. The Director of the film, Mr Ajith Kumar was present and he responded to the doubts and criticisms raised by the audience.

‘Papilio Buddha’ was screened in the afternoon. This movie was well received by the audience. The main criticism was that the movies do not maintain the balance between aesthetics and the message they want to convey. Films being an art form should be aesthetically sound even though they put forward a politics.

The audience, who are predominantly Dalit Christians, raised the point that there are many documentaries that portray the plight of the Dalits as a whole. But there is no single movie/documentary is made to portray the specific issues faced by the Dalit Christians. NCCI was challenged by the gathering to take the initiative to make that kind of a documentary, which exclusively talks about the issues and discriminations faced by the Dalits Christians in India.

Ms Ashey Thomas, Director of the Dr M M Thomas Study centre gave the vote of thanks.

Rev. Sunil Raj Philip,
Executive Secretary,
Commission on Dalits,
National Council of Churches in India