About Prashant Kadam

I have a master's degree in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from University of Pune, India. Have been a freelance photographer for a number of newspapers & magazines in India with assignments that covered features such as Art and Culture, investigation, fiction, New Products, fashion shows, astronomy, music & dance festivals, adventure, feature stories, movers and shakers, eye-opener and counter moves. A research assignment for a period film triggered my latent interest in filmmaking. Subsequently worked similar projects. I am passionate about making documentaries that would voice elements of social – cultural realities. The Bioscopewallah, is my debut independent documentary, was shot entirely in natural and available light, sans crew. I am now about to complete my second master's degree in Cinema and Media Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada.

BJP rallies against ‘corruption’ after holidaying in Parliament

After the stalled Winter 2010 secession of Parliament. After significant issues, bills, debates and discussions not finding ANY space between the so called JPC or PAC argument , the BJP is now on a national “anti-corruption rallies” mode. While they did nothing (or could not do anything) against Karnataka CM after allegations of his involvement in land allotment scams, the BJP now perhaps want to get their feet wet to find out how much public support they have in the present situation. The rally in my view is their SPEEDOMETER, to gauge how their strategies have faired. Their strategies have paid off. Unfortunately, not as an effective opposition party but only as a political party who intends to gain momentum towards the power corridors. They could have easily gathered momentum and passed a NO CONFIDENCE motion against the present UPA government, ‘strangely’ the BJP did no do so. While maintaing their CONFIDENCE in the ‘corrupt’ government over the 2-G specturm allocation issue they now are going to rally around the nation to consolidate vote. Nice move. Here is how even a cursory glance of their strategy worked out. It all begins after allegation of 2-G spectrum comes under the radar.

1st : stall parliament, leading to:

2nd: important issues/debates/discussions/bills not being taken up, leading to:

3rd: not just financial loss from stalled parliament but also policy loss which is far greater loss than Financial loss.

4th: Bashing of the Congress over ‘so many scams’ helps sensitize voters against Congress, leading general public to imagine “the present Congress lead govt. is most corrupt”- another feather in the cap for the BJP.

5th: Generally people end up discussing fundamentally less-important issues, i.e. issues that are important but not as important as to affect millions. Keys issues such as education for all, employment for all, affordable housing for all, healthcare for all are virually never discussed leading to more actual decay in society.

6th: for the BJP, all of the above becomes another feather in the cap, if questioned, they will rhetorically say, “the Congress was in power. It is during their regime this has happened. It is because of their incompetence.”

My only answer to this flimsy rhetoric is: agreed that the Congress is most incompetent of all political parties, they have failed each and every Indian in all possible ways, however, if they are so bad, it makes the BJP even worse, because being the LEADING OPPOSITION party the BJP were not even able to do their job of being an APT checkpoint for the government. And, if the BJP handles their power as opposition with such incompetence it only confirms that they would perhaps be even worse  if in control at the Centre. If they cannot perform their duty as efficiently in OPPOSITION they are more than likely to out perform themselves if they become the ruling political partly. By being complacent in their role as an effective opposition party the BJP has outperformed themselves, worst than the present Congress lead UPA government. If the BJP could not LEAD from the back, as on opposition, can they ever LEAD from the FRONT? In order to be effective in POWER one has to be equally – actually better – in OPPOSITION, its no rocket Science!


Re-viewing the seedling April 2010 Himal Magazine

By: Prashant Kadam

Locating the ‘untouchable’ in Shyam Benegal’s Ankur.

Published at:


In reading the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema descriptions of Shyam Benegal’s renowned trilogy – Ankur (1973), Nishant (1975) and Manthan(1976) – one might be led to imagine the ‘straightforwardness’ of the narratives of the films. Ankur, for instance, to be about a young man’s affair;Nishant, about a woman who is abducted and raped by rural feudals; andManthan, about corrupt politicians and their struggles with new technologies and milk cooperatives. In general, if one were to read such synopses without prior knowledge about the larger social relevance of these films, one could tend to believe that they have nothing to do with caste or untouchability. The reality, however, is that these films have layers of subtle references to the dynamics of caste in rural India. Unfortunately these crucial yet understated elements have ambiguously been omitted by film critics.

To test this claim, let us explore the caste indicators of Lakshmi and Kishtayya in Ankur, and then look closely at how the synopses addressed this. The morning after his arrival into the village, Surya (a newly married city-bred young man played by Anant Nag) asks Lakshmi (played by Shabana Azmi, the wife of a deaf-mute labourer, Kishtayya) to make tea for him. She hesitates, asking him whether he would drink tea that she made saying: “Mere haat ki chai piyengey aap?” Confused as to why he would not, Surya asks, “Kyun, kya baat hai?” and she responds, “Woh, hum loga kumhar hai sarkar”, telling him that she belongs to the kumhar, or potter caste, considered ‘low’ born.

Although castes involved in skilled professions such as carpentry (sutar) and ironsmithing (lohar) are technically, in the government parlance, considered to be ‘backward’ classes/castes, they were not necessarily considered as ‘untouchables’ or Dalits. In other words, a Kumhar might be considered to belong to the ‘lower’ Shudra caste, but the practice of untouchability was by and large reserved for the ati-shudra, the Dalits. The working mechanism of the caste system, however, systematically laid down ‘inherent’ notions of caste/occupational hierarchy, leading to what B R Ambedkar termed ‘graded inequality’ within Indian society. Thus, for example, Sutars consider themselves to be superior to Lohars, who consider themselves to be superior to chamars (leatherworkers) and so on.

Of the various ambiguities in Ankur the lived reality of untouchability that the Dalits faced was imagined for the Shudra couple Lakshmi and Kishtayya. Therefore, depicting them as Kumhars and ‘untouchables’ was perhaps erroneous. Not that it was completely inaccurate, as Shudras (ie, Bahujans) might also have encountered such discriminatory treatment. Nonetheless Kumhars being treated as ‘untouchables’ highlighted yet another dimension of the practice of untouchability that can be thought of as permeating Indian society. On being asked about the caste identity of Lakshmi and Kishtayya and their depiction as ‘untouchables’, Benegal recently told this writer that although Kumhars might not now be considered Dalits, they were treated as ‘untouchables’ in the Telengana region of the 1950s, the period in which the film was set.

Productive skills
In the critical analysis of Ankur that has been published over the past three decades, Kishtayya is often referred to merely as a ‘labourer’. There is no doubt that both he and Lakshmi are ‘labourers’. But failing to mention their caste backgrounds – perhaps the primary reason for their being on the margins, and the reason for being virtual slaves of the landlord – subverts a vital element that consolidates the economic, social, cultural and political positions of the subjugated couple. Furthermore, labourers are generally remunerated; but during the entire course of the film, one never sees either Lakshmi or Kishtayya being paid a fair remuneration for their work, for which Benegal may have intentionally maintained an element of ambiguity.

The story of Lakshmi and Kishtayya begins when a self-indulgent Surya arrives in the village, supposedly to look after his family’s estate. However, he displays little interest in following agricultural pursuits, for which he has neither the will nor the required skills, and he is thus largely dependent on the labour done by Lakshmi and Kishtayya. In this context, it is interesting that film historian Sangeeta Datta has written, “Living on the verge of poverty, Lakshmi steals grain from her master’s storeroom – her survival instincts are stronger than any moral qualms.” It is rather unfortunate that Lakshmi’s act is labelled as ‘stealing’. Datta not only fails to comment on the dependency of the ‘master’ upon his ‘slave’, but also neglects to comment upon the non-payment of a fair remuneration for their productive labour. Had Lakshmi been duly paid for her services as a housemaid and field labourer, she would not have had to ‘steal’ grains – produced, incidentally by her own labour.

Datta, while questioning Lakshmi’s ‘morality’, does not fail to highlight Surya’s seeming modernity. “Surya displays liberal ideas when he eats food cooked by the ‘untouchable’ Lakshmi,” Datta writes, “and sends off the village priest who protests.” Hailing from a patriarchal background, where sons often do not learn to cook, Surya’s ‘liberalism’ comes at the price of Lakshmi’s subjugation. After cooking food regularly for Surya in his house, their relationship eventually becomes sexual. On this point, Datta attributes this sexual relationship to Surya’s supposed liberalness: “Despite his earlier display of progressive views, Surya’s claim on Lakshmi is a replay of his father’s ownership of the village woman Kaushalya.” In other words, Surya’s father ‘owned’ a mistress in a similar manner. It is pertinent to note here that, after Kishtayya is caught stealing toddy, Surya makes sure that Kishtayya is publicly humiliated, after which he disappears. It is in Kishtayya’s absence that Surya and Lakshmi become sexually involved, at Surya’s hollow promise to Lakshmi that he will “look after” her.

Although we see Kishtayya perpetually drunk, there is a significant scene that highlights aspects of his productive skills. In his ‘usual’ drunken state, Kishtayya climbs a tall tree to drink toddy, from which he then descends with a pot full of the drink. Both of these manoeuvres are done with notable ease and agility, despite Kishtayya’s full knowledge that one false move would mean a number of broken bones, if not death. For most Dalitbahujans, such productive skills are learned at a young age, and one tends to become an expert by youth. Although the film depicted various aspects of this skilled-though-marginalised Dalitbahujan consciousness, critics have rarely if ever commented on its significance, particularly from a Dalitbahujan perspective.
In another subtle yet telling scene, Surya follows an unknown noise by a nearby well. It is broad daylight, and he stands by a wall looking at a few women by the water. Suddenly, Surya is frozen at the sight of a snake and, terrified, he calls out to Lakshmi for help. Without much ado, Lakshmi calmly picks up a stick and shoos the snake away. Here again, it is significant to read this scene as reflecting Dalitbahujan culture and knowledge of the often-undermined rural underclass/caste. Not only does Lakshmi not hurt the snake; but by not being intimidated by it, she displays a far deeper sense of understanding of nature – again, a critical example of the Dalitbahujan consciousness. In contrast, the educated, urban, middle-class, ‘upper’-caste Surya is speechless at the mere sight of the snake. Yet while the focus for critics has remained largely on the negative facets of ‘lower’ caste characters, positive and productive skills apparent in the narrative have systematically remained unseen.

Kishtayya’s child?

After Kishtayya’s humiliation and subsequent disappearance, Surya and Lakshmi gradually become sexually involved. The time between Kishtayya’s disappearance and his return (close to the end of the film) is left ambiguous, due to which a viewer might tend to believe that Surya impregnated Lakshmi – likewise, the reference made by the title, Ankur, or ‘seedling’. When Surya and Lakshmi argue over her pregnancy, Surya expects her to go through with an abortion, but Lakshmi refuses. Surya asks, “Don’t you feel ashamed?” to which she retorts, “Must I only feel ashamed and not you?” Although the claim to paternity here is not clear, it is apparent that Surya does not consider having sex with an ‘untouchable’ an act of shame – as long as it is not made public. It is only when Lakshmi’s pregnancy would reveal their involvement that he wants Lakshmi to feel ashamed. Lakshmi, meanwhile, is bold enough to question Surya’s stance, and brave enough be a single mother. Critics hailed Priya Bakshi’s character from Kya Kehna (2000), played by Preity Zinta, taking a similar stance; however, when a ‘lower’ caste Lakshmi took such a stance 26 years ago, was it not worth the mention?

Most critics have taken a rather simplistic approach to this complex dynamic. Some have suggested that Lakshmi had always wanted a child; or implied that Kishtayya was naive, as he seems to be joyous seeing Lakshmi pregnant when he returns. But it is important here to note how ambiguous the narrative actually is with regards to the ‘seedling’. Early on the film alludes to Lakshmi and Kishtayya having sex; but because the film does not explicitly reveal how much time has passed during Kishtayya’s absence, the viewer cannot be conclusive with regards to the paternity. At the same time, what will follow after birth is perhaps much more important – and oddly, one of the least commented upon aspects of the film. There is no doubt that Lakshmi’s and Kishtayya’s child will bear an invisible signifier as the child of an ‘untouchable’. But the narrative also implies that the ‘seedling’ is ‘sown’ in their family: leaving claims of paternity ambiguous, Ankur leaves the lower-caste Lakshmi with the hope of a future generation. On the other hand, at the end of the film we see Surya and his wife virtually trapped in their own house, with no apparent hope in the narrative for their family to grow. Ankur thus leaves the deprived and subjugated couple on the margins, but with the hope of a family.

For her pivotal essay “Can the Subaltern speak”, noted Indian theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s perspective was hailed as a ‘voice of concern’. Implicit in her work, however, was the presupposition that the marginalised is “inherently mute”. In real life, as in innumerable films, the Dalitbahujans have spoken, sung songs, murmured, acted and reacted; if they remained mute, it was perhaps in protest. If only Spivak had considered the complexities and implications of caste along with class, she would have found that, indeed, the subaltern often speaks. Whether they are being heard, of course, is often another matter altogether. Prashant Kadam is pursuing his master’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies at York University, Toronto, and is working on a documentary on the representations of Dalits in Hindi cinema.

RGV’s so called reason for showing SARKAR to Bal Thakarey

Dear RGV, Thank you for answering my query.

20. Why did you buckle under pressure and showed Sarkar to Bal Thackeray?
Ans: Dumbo, he never asked me to show. It was me who was dying to show off.

And also thank you for showing your true colours. It is well known what kind of politician Bal Thackerey and his party is.(For the ones who don’t know I suggest simply google and read what researchers, professors and academics have to say about it’s communal Hinduitva politics.)

And when you say “It was me who was dying to show off” – this can be interpreted in two ways.

Either you LOOK UP to THACKEREY and therefore you wanted to show off your film to him. Honestly, I don’t think you were really tying to “show off” but rather did not have much choice than to screen SARKAR and get Thakarey’s un-official green signal.

I remember clearly evern during MANI RATNAM’S BOMBAY, MANI was put in a similar situation and was told to delete a few scenes and also to change the name of the film BOMBAY TO MUMBAI which he did not accept, but he accepted to delete a few scenes that were showing TINU ANAND playing THACKAREY in a “BAD LIGHT”.

Anyways, I just wanted to let you know Sir. that yes, you can brush me off by calling me a Dumbo, which I may or may not be. But, I am surprised that so many of your fans who really look up to you as a man of courage and honesty and integrity cannot really see thorough your pseudo-boldness.

Your heroes like Harshwardhan Mallik are only limited to film for others to follow but when it come to you to follow the same, you remain to the same group of NAVEEN SANKALIA, just an opportunistic money making machinery. Now, I am not suggesting making “money” is bad. I know that everybody needs it. But what is perhaps more important is how you make it. Is that elaborate lecture of Harshwardhan for only for the audience to follow and not you?

I just hope that people realize the sham. Why preach when you cannot follow!

Sadly perhaps not much can be expected even from your fans here. Barely anyone here on this blog has the guts to blog with their real full names displayed. It is very easy to talk and feel protected with fake ID’s but takes more than “steel balls” to say whatever you want to say with honestly.

Can you please be clear?

Dalit party wants Sena, MNS derecognised

This misleading headline alludes to “Dallt party wants Sena” but seeks to have the MNS de-recognized. Perhaps it would have been appropriate if it read: “Dalit Party wants Sena and MNS derecognised.”

Dalit party wants Sena, MNS derecognised

Sat, Feb 6 11:35 AM

Lucknow, Feb. 6 — Dalit political outfit Indian Justice Party (IJP) plans to petition the Election Commission or the Supreme Court, seeking the de-recognition of the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena as political parties.

“Bal and Raj Thackeray are playing divisive politics,” IJP president Udit Raj said at a press conference on Friday. “They are out to make Indians fight against Indians.

” Udit Raj, also chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, said he would meet the chief election commissioner on Monday and, if the demand to disband both parties was not met, would file a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court.

Hindustan Times


Derogatory remarks in Films

Manohar and everybody concerned,

It is precisely for these reason you and all of us should have seen this and all other films. It will help us understand how the society imagines the dalit, dalit bahujan and adivasis and we should be able to better criticize them.

Simply “banning” and turning a blind eye to it is not the solution. If that is the solution, how can you make a film with a Sardarji, a Muslim, or for that matter anybody in a film, because everybody in a way represents everybody and in a creative arts field you cannot question the artist but of course critise their work.

If Dalit literature has the right to swear at a Brahmin priest or other non-dalits the vice-versa should also stand true.

Unfortunately, I shall only be able to see it (the film Jogwaa) after it comes on DVD.



— On Wed, 2/3/10, MANOHAR DAVANE <manohartiss@gmail.com> wrote:

From: MANOHAR DAVANE <manohartiss@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [HumanHorizons] Anyone to take up this issue ?

To: humanhorizons@yahoogroups.co.uk

Received: Wednesday, February 3, 2010, 5:42 PM


On Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 7:08 PM, lalit Khandare <lalitkhandare@ yahoo.co. uk> wrote:

Dear friends,

The movie “JOGVA” a national award winning movie,  is on sensitive topic of Jogta and Jogtin/ Devdasi, however they are insensitive towards Dalits.

Has some of the derogatory dialogues against “Dalits” ,Mahars and Chambhars in Maharashtra.

Following are the dialogues

“Kashyapai apan satpan sodav..  kon ahe

“Anu” kay kela tyane, hich tyachya galyat padli…

Kutlya maharavar pot phadun phirtiya yello aai jano”

“Chambhar chowkasya kashya karaya”

Please confirm if this correct and suggest possible actions.

Best regards,

lalit Khandare