Madras: New Cinema of Dalit Genre
Prof.P. Kesava Kumar
Pa. Ranjith’s film Madras is a unique film in the history of Tamil Cinema and creating new genre of films. This is both realistic and political cinema that captures the life of slums of the city. In other words, it is a filming of rhythm of everyday life and struggles of dalits of the city that includes joy, struggle, violence, politics and love. There are many reviews about the film that appraising the life of slum (Housing board) of North Chennai for its crude realistic narration. The film is explicit in bringing the identity of the characters and their social locations rather keeping obscure as the case with popular cinema but nobody wants speak in these realistic terms. This is political film of dalits searching for their own space in otherwise dominated by Dravidian parties. The political space of dalits is not given. For this they have to struggle to negotiate with existing space to create a space of their own. The control over the wall, symbolizes the power in public sphere. This is an ordinary love story having the backdrop of politics, violence, emotions and poverty. Altogether, it is Pa. Ranjith’s well crafted commercial, realistic and political dalit cinema.
This film is unique in many ways in the film history of Indian cinema in general and Tamil cinema in Particular. This is a political cinema that differs with the political genre of Mani Ratnam, Shankar and Ramagopal Verma as it revolves around the urban slum dwelling dalit youth. It is realistic and politically sensitive apart from a regular love story. We can feel this difference in every frame of the film, of its music, dialect and body language. The film sutured with dalit grammar. The film depicts the life of Vyasarapadi Huda colony of f North Chennai, which is the hub of dalits. The film consciously worked out that Vyasarpadi (North Chennai) is not a home of gangsters as generally viewed from outside but people with political spirit. The film revolves in the backdrop of conflicts of Dravidian politics in the city. But presents the search of political space of dalits within larger politics and also make an effort to have their own autonomous political space. The contestation of the power is symbolically seen through the undercurrent theme of the film, that is, struggle for wall. The wall is used as metaphor in this film. Every dalit struggles of the city culminated in the claims of political articulation through an assertion of ‘This wall is ours’. The wall is used for political writing. It also reflects not only visibility of the dalits in public space but also control over that space. The hero represents the urban educated (software engineer) youth from this locality but not alienated from the roots of everyday life of Dalit colony in the city. He was caught in the political conflict and he wants to leave for the political aspirations of the community in that locality. He believes that friendship means not only sharing the ambitions of one’s own life but politics too. The girl he loves is politically active than him. She is a daughter of Ambedkarite and also involves in struggles. Her role presented as an active heroine rather a glamorous doll. We can feel the ruggedness of urban dalit life very much reflected in the film, weather it is foot ball, music or dance. ‘The Blue boys’ of the film reminds the Afro American music. The character Johnny (mentally disturbed) was effectively used as symbol of political satire of slum dwelling against wretched earth. The love and sex of Mary and Anbu was as natural as their son Ronaldo. The dalit hero of this Untouchable spring firmly believes that we are not born to die but also have to live with pride, if necessary by eliminating our enemies. Madras is a new cinema of dalit genre proved even commercially successful. Indian Cinema has to move in their direction, there is no other way.