This outstanding depiction of the caste system in India is of great importance to Dalit people like me GeoTv News
Origin, the latest film from acclaimed director Ava DuVernay (Selma, When They See Us), depicts marginalization as a thread that connects race, class, caste, and gender. It is inspired by Isabel Wilkerson’s 2020 book, Class: The Origins of Our Discontent.
In the film, Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) embarks on a global journey to explore the concept of “class” while writing her book and struggling with personal loss. She visited three countries as part of her research.
First, she explores the elements that lead to discrimination in her home country, America. Next, she goes to Germany, where she links the racial segregation of people during the Nazi era to America. Finally, she travels to India, where she links the plight of Dalit people in a society divided along class lines with the plight of blacks in America and Jews in Germany. What she has created is a book that fundamentally exposes the insidious and universal nature of caste systems.
Caste is a system of classifying society in a hierarchical order where some people remain inferior and others are superior. In India, the Dalit people are placed at the lowest rung of this social ladder, in America, the black people, and in Germany, the Jewish people.
It’s the way DuVernay weaves these stories together that makes the film so fascinating. In doing so, it highlights how inhumane, unethical, and unfair discriminatory practices occur regardless of geographic location, local cultures, and social norms.
Dalit stories in Hollywood
I come from a Dalit background and am looking for Dalit representation in the film. So I know first-hand why Origin is so important to people like me.
In the film, Wilkerson visits the Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial in Delhi to learn about the life and work of the lawyer and social activist. This is the first time that Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar’s struggle for the rights of India’s Dalits and other deprived classes has been depicted in a Hollywood film. The original traces the journey of Ambedkar (played by Gaurav J Patania) from his childhood to the writing of the Indian Constitution.
Ambedkar, revered as Babasaheb (Respectable Father), was born in India in 1891. At that time, people were treated differently depending on their heritage. Imagine a giant ladder, where some people at the top get all the entitlements, while others are stuck at the bottom, never having the opportunity to move up. Ambedkar was a Dalit born at the bottom of the ladder, into a group called the “untouchables.”
Despite facing many obstacles at school – such as having to study sitting on a mat outside the classroom and eating his food separately – Ambedkar was determined to continue his education. He was intelligent and studied hard, eventually attending university in the United States and England.
He became an expert in laws and rights, and when India gained independence, he was chosen to write the constitution. Ambedkar made sure that it included rules to treat everyone fairly and equally, regardless of their position in the social hierarchy.
Using extreme close-ups, DuVernay shows Wilkerson’s inner turmoil as she learns more about India’s caste system. At times, the film has an almost documentary style, giving it a sense of authenticity as Wilkerson interviews people, discusses and debates the issue of social class while highlighting the complexity of the subject.
The original does not shy away from themes such as untouchability. For thousands of years, Dalit people have been excluded from all forms of educational facilities and opportunities, and denied the right to read and write.
In one scene, the film depicts the practice of manual garbage collection, a job that many Dalits do to earn a living. In the past five years, 339 people have lost their lives doing this type of work, cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
The process of exhumation is presented with extreme honesty and compassion, avoiding unnecessary sensationalism or drama. It forces viewers to confront the horrific reality that this inhumane practice continues in our supposedly modern world. Wilkerson’s character acts as a powerful catalyst, opening the eyes of audiences around the world to this hidden and often unbelievable cruelty.
Another incident shows a father in the United States who, in an attempt to escape the trauma and humiliation caused by the caste system, called his firstborn daughter “Miss.” He sees this as a loophole in the social order, hoping that by giving her this title, he can indirectly give her the respect that was denied her ancestors.
This reflects other real-world stories. In India, names indicate a person’s position in the social hierarchy. In general, Dalit names are derogatory. In a tragic incident that took place in 2022, a father in Rajasthan named his daughter ‘Bisa’ (which means ‘Miss’ and is used to express respect, strength and authority for the daughter of an upper-caste Rajput community), a choice which the caste people strongly disapproved of. As a result, he was beaten to death.
Despite the darkness of its subject matter, the original not only exposes the problem of marginalization, but also offers a glimpse of hope and possibility. By showcasing acts of resistance, resilience and solidarity, the film encourages viewers to become active participants in dismantling systems of oppression and building a more equitable and caste-free future – a future based on equality, fraternity and freedom.
Courtesy : Geo Tv News
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