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5 Movies on the Realities of Inter-Caste Love in India
From ‘Geeli Pucchi’ to ‘Sairat’, these films show us the struggles, hopes, and bittersweet realities of inter-caste love.
Love can be liberating, but what happens when it is quite literally against the world? In India, caste typically overshadows love, but that’s beginning to change.
The Supreme Court of India recently said inter-caste marriages might reduce caste conflicts. The reality on the ground also seems to be improving. In 2020, the southern state of Karnataka reported a three-fold rise in inter-caste marriages, in part thanks to the many government schemes encouraging inter-caste love. Yet the societal resistance to inter-caste love persists.
In a country that has historically produced the most movies in the world per year, the all-pervasive effect of the Indian film industry in shaping the caste discourse cannot be discounted. Various Indian filmmakers, across languages and regions, are now engaging with the realities of caste and love more deeply than ever before. Such films, apart from receiving widespread critical acclaim and film festival love, have also done well at the box office.
Here are five movies that celebrate the realities of caste, whether it’s the fiery defiance of love against all odds, or reckoning with the harsh realities of going against the grain. More than anything, these movies will reaffirm your faith in love itself.
Geeli Pucchi (2021)
Released as one of four shorts in the Netflix anthology film Ajeeb Daastaans (Strange Tales), Geeli Pucchi (Sloppy Kisses) expertly navigates the silos of queer love and casteism through the story of a lower-caste woman who finds herself falling in love with an upper-caste woman, also her colleague.
A seemingly innocent love story on the face of it, director Neeraj Ghaywan manages to demonstrate how even queerness cannot liberate you if you’ve given yourself to casteism. The privilege that comes with an upper-caste surname is often too convenient to give up, so while love can be beautiful, there are still hard truths to reckon with.
A blockbuster at the time of its release, Sairat (Wild) was loved nationwide despite being a low-budget regional film. It went on to become the highest-grossing film in Marathi since its release.
Sairat starts off as a sweet story of two college students from different caste backgrounds who end up falling in love, much like any poor boy-rich girl retelling. But the real gut-wrencher comes in the second half of the film when reality strikes and the couple comes face-to-face with the harsh trade-off of taboo love.
With the heartwarming performance of its lead actors and a taut screenplay that keeps you hooked until the end, Sairat will make you laugh, weep and smile all at once. Director Nagraj Manjule had originally conceived the film in 2009 based on his own experiences. The film premiered at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival where it received a standing ovation.
Set against the boxing backdrop of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Mukkabaaz (The Brawler), captures the journey of an aspiring boxer who dares to fall in love with the upper-caste niece of a boxing federation head – a former boxing champion and heavyweight himself.
The film weaves the love story of its protagonists through an atmosphere charged with petty rivalries, fanatical mobs, and bloody fights. More than just a punchy setting, boxing represents the hard-nosed truths of politics and corruption in sport and in life. Ultimately, love triumphs. And we are shown how it’s all worth it when you are fighting for the one you love.
You can’t beat love letters when it comes to going old-school with love. But if it’s a 14-year-old lower-caste boy whose only pastime is writing love letters to a girl who passes by his house – as his mother tends as a house-help for upper-caste families – things can get very complicated very soon.
Chauranga (Four Colours) is a product of a screenwriting lab organised by The National Film Development Corporation of India. The result is a debut feature by Bikas Ranjan Mishra that shows us the many shades of rebellious love.
2 States (2014)
They say the most creative work is the most personal. This film is adapted from the eponymous semi-autobiographical novel by popular Indian novelist Chetan Bhagat. It’s a quirky, funny, and warm tale of two people who come from different caste backgrounds and cultural sensibilities.
Krish Malhotra is from the north Indian state of Punjab where almost everything is a pompous celebration. While pursuing his MBA from one of India’s premier institutions, he falls in love with Ananya Swaminathan, who comes from the southern side of India and grew up with reserved parents. The result is not just fireworks; the film also shows us that it’s sometimes possible for our parents to grow out of their dated notions of what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Source: Arman Khan, VICE
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