Films throw light on caste 'evil'


French director Sophie Azemar’s Le Dernier Parmi Les Hommes (The Last Among the Men), which was shown in the Documentaries of the World Section at what is one of the world’s most-prestigious festivals, is an unflinching viewpoint on untouchability and the resultant societal discrimination against Dalits.

Shot entirely in Tamil Nadu, the film goes deep into the religio-historical reasons that makes eradication of the social evil difficult.

The film argues, with support from Dalit activists like J C Anthony and Vincent Manoharan of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, that perpetuation of the caste system by vested “upper castes” has led to continuing social persecution of the Dalits.

In a telling comment about how the system pervades the Indian society at large, Dalit journalist M Punitha Pandian says at one particular moment in the film that the late K R Narayanan could not escape his caste label even after death as he continues to be referred to as the first Dalit President of India.

Where the film fails is, however, its limited vision of implementation, something which documentaries like Indian filmmaker K Stalin’s much-acclaimed India Untouched had been able to overcome to present a comprehensive viewpoint on the subject.

On the other hand, veteran Bengali director Pinaki Chowdhury’s Aarohan (Ascension), starring thespian Soumitra Chatterjee and award-winning actress Rituparna Sengupta, takes a philosophical view on the caste-system.

Screened under the Focus on World Cinema section in the presence of Sengupta, Aarohan lacks in technical finesse but scores in its exploration of how the caste system can assume different meanings under different circumstances.

The festival this year screened two other films with India-related themes – Vijay Singh’s documentary India by Song and short film India 66 – Road to Auroville by Canadian Roger Otis.

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