Tamil Film ‘Draupadi’ Dares To Portray ‘Reverse Discrimination’, Upsets Some In The Movie Industry

Tamil Film ‘Draupadi’ Dares To Portray ‘Reverse Discrimination’, Upsets Some In The Movie Industry

by M R Subramani - Tuesday, January 7, 2020 06:05 PM IST
Tamil Film ‘Draupadi’ Dares To Portray ‘Reverse Discrimination’, Upsets Some In The Movie IndustryA scene from the movie, Draupadi.
  • Draupadi is treading a different path from usual Tamil films that have always portrayed the downtrodden as the ones wronged by the society.

A crowd-sourced Tamil film, Draupadi, which is in the making, has become the most hotly-debated topic currently in the state. This is despite the fact that Tamil film superstar’s latest flick Darbar is scheduled to be released within the next 48 hours.

On YouTube, Draupadi is trending at number 15 and has garnered the reactions of over tens of thousands with more than two million views.

Efforts have begun to try and stop the film being released with the Dravidar Kazhagam general secretary K Veeramani petitioning the Chennai Police Commissioner to stop the release of the movie.

Others like film director Pa Ranjith, who has made movies glorifying the violence indulged in by the downtrodden, have criticised the film.

Draupadi is being directed by G Mohan, who made his debut in 2016 with the film Pazhaya Vannarapettai (Old Washermanpet) on five students being suspected for the murder of a politician and how four them, set free, try to rescue the fifth.

On Draupadi, Mohan says it is a film about fake marriage racket and not caste. He says that he is projecting the reality of "fictitious love drama" and people should not portray it wrongly.

The director has said: “let a father and daughter see the movie. It is not essential to watch the movie in a theatre. Let them download and see it. We have made the movie for people to see it, not to earn money.”

Why has the movie’s trailer rankled many, especially those who claim to protect the rights of the downtrodden? The promo of the movie has changed national poet Subramaniya Bharathi's verse "Jaathigal illaiyadi papa" (There is no caste, child) to "Jaathigal undu" (Caste is there).

The trailer of the movie begins with a quote from Martin Luther King Junior: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The trailer says it is a "never told story" with a girl pleading with a person not to take the video of their secret marriage to which he responds: "Don't you think your father would have died already?"

In another clip, the hero of the movie, Rishi Richard who hasn’t tasted much success despite being the brother-in-law of Tamil actor Ajith and brother of actors Shalini and Shamili, asks a guy: “It’s your fault you have not studied. Touch your conscience and say whether what you are doing isn’t wrong?”

The other guy responds: “there’s nothing wrong in what I am doing. Our anna (elder brother) has asked us not to submit ourselves when others ask us to do so. He has asked us to marry girls of big houses and our life will be great.”

The trailer also has glimpses of incidents relating to death of a Scheduled Caste person, whose body was found on a railway track, and a lawyer prodding his client to kill “lowly persons”.

The film, claiming to be based on real incidents, also has an interesting clip in which a leader tells the hero that the person who had married his daughter was under his protection and he would listen to him only.

When the hero responds saying he would “kill all” of them, his lieutenant remarks: “Kill. Whatever you do will only be advantageous to us.”

There are other dialogues like “land and girls are important to us. We will chop off the hands of anyone who keeps their hand on them” and “if we need to enter that village, we should keep our hand on the girl of his house”.

Though some portray the movie in the making to justify honour killings, Mohan says Draupadi is the unanimous voice of the affected girls.

He says the movie is about the vow the film heroine Sheela makes and how she fulfils it with the way she takes up the issue.

On social media, Mohan’s attempt has been termed bold, while another has commented that he is “real man” in the industry. However, concerns have been expressed if the movie is promoting violence.

Draupadi is trying to tread a totally different path from usual Tamil films, which have always portrayed the downtrodden as the ones wronged by the society. Tamil films have always been biased against a few upper or other backward communities.

This also means viewers and critics being forced to close their eyes to objectionable or wrong suggestions made in these movies.

While violence shown in Draupadi trailer is being criticised, similar violence in movies of the fight back of the downtrodden have seldom been criticised.

Second, there are sometimes events wherein a novel made into a film deviates a bit, brings in the angle of the downtrodden to taste success at the box-office. For example, one of last year’s hit Tamil film was Asuran (demon), directed by Vetrimaran.

The movie was made from a Tamil novel Vekkai (heat). The novel’s author Poomani has said that the novel did not deal with “Dalitism”. The film has ridden to success with that theme, though.

Then, in Pa Ranjith's debut movie Attakathi, a friend of the hero tells him: "finish that 'matter' (sex) with other caste girls first, then only they will not leave you." No one had found fault with this, though the view is it is a wrong advice.

Right from heroes such as M G Ramachandran till the latest one on the block, Tamil films have always banked on the “injustice perpetrated on the downtrodden”.

In a way, this has suited the narration of the Dravidian parties, which claim to uphold the right of the Scheduled Castes though they have not yet ended the inhuman practice of untouchability in the state.

On the other hand, any movie that attempts to show the other side is either stalled or its attention diverted. For example, Bharathiraja’s Vedam Pudithu criticised the caste system in general but the Dravidian parties portrayed as if the Brahmin community is being ridiculed.

There have been some films such as Kamal Haasan’s Thevar Magan in which other castes are shown as violent ones.

And Tamil film history cannot forget the fate the 1989 film Orey Oru Gramathiley (In a village) met. The movie starring Lakshmi, directed by K Jyothi Pandian and produced by S Rangarajan of The Hindu group is about a Brahim getting a lower-caste certificate for his daughter Gayathri.

The film, based on a script by noted lyricist Vali, took a pot shot at the caste-based reservation system through the court dialogues in Tamil Nadu’s education system and won the national award for the best film on 'social issues'.

A petition was filed in the Madras High Court against the censor approval for the film. The petition was struck down by a single judge, who was gheraoed in the open court by the Dravidar Kazhagam cadre.

An appeal was filed before a division bench, which struck down the censor certificate, forcing the case to be dragged to the Supreme Court.

A Supreme Court bench of justices K J Shetty, K N Singh and Kuldeep Singh watched the film with subtitles and upheld the right of the producer to release the film.

In the landmark judgement, Justice Shetty wrote: “the State cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem. It is its obligatory duty to prevent it and protect the freedom of expression.”

There were huge demonstrations even before the Supreme Court on the day of the judgement, but the judges stood their ground. Unfortunately, the film on "reverse discrimination" never hit the screen.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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