Society and Identity
“Can the subaltern speak?” The question has been haunting the postcolonial academia for decades giving rise to ceaseless arguments and counter-arguments. Keeping it as the theoretical framework, this paper aims at analysing the representations of Dalit lives in Hindi films. Although many Bollywood/Hindi films have included the Dalits (in other words, the erstwhile untouchable community of India) as integral part of their narratives, very few have, in fact, attempted to portray the contrasting shades of Dalit lives through a politically-nuanced language. However, those ‘nuanced’ portrayals are also not unproblematic. Do these apparently ‘caste-sensitive’ films truly represent what the excluded voices from the ‘periphery’ want to say? Or, they simply act as mouthpiece for the ‘privileged Centre’- be it the high caste or the Dalit Brahmins? Questions such as these, point at the complex relationship that a social issue like caste fosters with the media- especially Hindi films. Drawing examples from both mainstream and parallel Hindi films as well as documentaries, this paper discusses the problems of representation of Dalit lives on celluloid and the question of responsibility that such representations raise. It problematizes the portrayal of Dalits as “ventriloquized” subalterns and simultaneously questions the rigidity of the definition of such terms as “Centre” and “Margin”. In the final analysis, this paper wishes to explore the potentiality of these Hindi films in initiating a productive communication between the “Centre” and the “Margin”.