Reflecting of 'Karnan'; Countering Pretence

Source :SIFY
Last Updated: Mon, Apr 19th, 2021, 17:47:43hrs
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Reflecting of Karnan; Countering Pretence

I would like to juxtapose Karnan's plot with two incidents that have left me sleepless and have kept my thinking, hover over some grave Realities of life in India today. Mari Selvaraj has tried his best to be lowly, radical and critical. The movie starts with a gruesome, melancholic and morbid experience of a young girl who is lying in the middle of the road with seizures, while the vehicles pass by without taking any care for the abandoned soul. The movie assumes her death as a catalyst that entrench transformative mythical powers. Her progressive haunting presence is something that kept driving the spirit of the movie to another dimension of life with which my religious spirituality associates. Her presence embed deep capacities to incite inspirations to a community that has sustained slaughter marks as aspects that challenge demonic powers, like the morbid Caste system.

My religious spirituality thrives on remembrance, Christ promised the disciples of his presence till the end of times (I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20). Octavio Paz, in his incredible work, The labyrinth of solitude accords the assertion of the Mexicans in the context of North American pretence as; 'We get drunk to confess; they get drunk to forget.' As much as we drink in the Christian Sacramental sense, we drink to remember, so does Paz, when he said; We Confess. It is the girl's spirit that drives the hope of redemption, the acute misery of the victim.

Remembrance is all about memories. Particularly the Dalit memories are all about massacres and continuous killings and grave violence against them for thousands of years. The headless deity, later the headless painting on the colony’s wall are suggestive of such memories that drive oppressed communities. So, it is a natural tendency to draw parallels to gruesome pasts, so did many who thought and still think Karnan embeds the Kodiankulam and Manjolai massacres. However, as a Tamil Christian Dalit, I could also think of an episode in Bangalore in the early 90s, where the Tamils in the city were brutalized by the dominant linguists of the state and supported by the police. In Bangalore tamil language is also associated with lower caste groups. In my memory that’s how I have been referred to, as kongga and katpadi both acutely derogative.

I could also think of the police brutality in the recent past at Sathankulam. Police brutality coupled with caste connotations overarch and pulsate the movie. To further the conversation on memories, I would like to bring in two recent experiences of Dalits which I think will lead to a larger question on the Dalit life affected by the never-ending caste atrocities in the country.

Recently a Dalit family was forced to take away the almost buried body of their four-month-old infant in the Koratagere taluk of Karnataka's Tumkur district, by the security guards of the acclaimed landowners.
It was noted that the baby died of serious respiratory illness. It was also noted that the family worked for a quarry and were landless and they were unaware of any land nearby excluded for the Dalits to bury their dead. Their vulnerable state of being, thrust them to bury the baby's body near their settlement. The drama continued as the family hopelessly loitered around with the corpse of their baby until they found a place for the dead one in this falsely freedom assumed state.

This grave inflicted experience discloses layers of misconceptions, malfunctions and violently practiced loyalty to the caste bias psyche of this land.

While the family is still in bereavement, we have a society, public, communities and individuals who not only further their misery but also fundamentally negate the possibility of grieving for the loss of their baby. These brutalities disclose the inhumane fundamentals of the country's politics, spirituality and future.

Max Horkheimer (Frankfurt school of critical theory), while engaging with critical theory seeking justice in the context of deep human crisis suggested that 'the misery of the victims' is the most crucial aspect that justice should thrive on in seeking the same.

However, the context of the country has been pathetic for thousands of years, the misery of the victim wouldn't drive the public or individual to attain justice rather it would only further the misery of the Dalit with its Caste prejudice. Caste is a unique code of conduct that drives the Indian psyche and Caste as an institution keeps the Dalit from seeking and attaining justice on any grounds.

The above experience also tells us that, later the grieving family found land to bury their dead where the Caste Propagators had no say.

Geographical alienation is a violent mechanism through which the Dalit communities and individuals are reminded of their karmic pathetic state of being. For the dominant, it is a karmic prerogative to push the Dalits to such heinous limits.

Last week in Arakkonam, two young lads were held along with their friends by the dominant caste fellows and were brutally attacked, two died in the act. The Hindu, recorded the Police claim as; 'that an argument broke out between the youngsters and supporters gathered on both sides. "The Dalit youngsters tried to leave the place, but they were rounded up and attacked with sharp weapons. Two Dalits - Arjunan (26) from Soghanur village and Suriya (26) from Sembedu village - were killed and three of their friends - Madhan, Vallarasu, and Soundarajan - were injured'."

Sivagami IAS, in one of the interviews, resonates with the common people's view on the murder as; these things usually happen at the dawn of Ambedkar Jayanti.

Strangely, people predict these things unknowingly in their souls' depth at the coming of certain important events and festivities. The life of a Dalit is such that their misery isn't enough to seek Justice. Only Mariselvaraj can be so uncritically and blatantly hopeful, a mistake repeated since the climax of Pariyerum Perumal, where the climax scene Justifies the arrogantly innocent dominant caste heroine who remains to be absolutely senseless and the highly patriarchal conversation between the girl's father and the Dalit hero, the blunder is that the movie ends with the hero drinking the tea without milk, the father drinks the milk tea and the girl gets a bottled juice for herself. Here the dominant man stays as it is, the Dalit remains so and the woman from the dominant caste chooses the MNC product. While the Dalit queer father and extremely bearing mother are kept aloft. The imagery is so deeply violent that none feel the remorse of being the 'assumed them' in a patriarchal caste bias society.

It is stranger to authenticate the Palar community’s memory in the movie in the context where the Palars are looking ahead for a none Schedule Caste (SC) identity. The move to a none SC identity also resonates how in history certain communities claim their caste identity as superior in comparison with the other lowly communities. This also furthers the argument on how Caste is all about superiority and dominance.

Karnan is also about another male iconoclast to be the only saviour of the community unknowingly driven by the feminine spirits and female presence. Isnt this a patriarchal conservatism? why does history want to repeat itself like that of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Iyothee, Retamalai, Rev. John Ratnam, Periyar, Phule, Ambedkar and so on?

Why does the Dalit imagination also have the Feminine as the secret driving force and men as the forefront warriors for Justice?

Isn't this some sort of accounted fact to be and a predestined idea for the Reversal of the order and Political Subversion? And all of us know how Caste flourishes on predestined religious theories.

Or is this the patriarchal predestination of how the revolutions should always be, all about the Man and the woman playing the subordinate role?

In another sense, it is also the predestined idea of the hetero-normativity that thrives on Justice, thereby still archaic in critical imagination. However, the brilliance of the director and the art team is that they are raging against the Mani Ratnam kind of Brahminic and other Dominant rhetoric of the Tamil cinema industry.  

I only wish and pray for the acclaimed creative artists to embody the change to contribute to the intended politics of change or else this would be a never-ending naive, cliche and narrow-minded engagement with creativity, where creativity ceases to be creative, like the endless chain of caste violence.

Read more at:

What the beheading of a TN Dalit girl says about us

Miners you should be wary of Rajinikanth and Sterlite's Anil Agarwal

The Dalit Erasure of Ilayaraja

The case of Dr M Mariraj: Caste is all around us

Dalits, Tamil cinema and Tamil society

Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah is a pastor from Bangalore.

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