Castemopolitan Mumbai

English (subtitled), 143 min, 2014, India

Mumbai is often regarded as a melting pot, with space for diverse identities, a beacon of hope for marginalised communities, a city where anonymity and proximity allows for a blurring of ascribed identities. Yet caste persists, marking individuals, communities and spaces, circumscribing choices of work, residence, education, marriage and other cultural practices. This series of six films explores the subtle and not so subtle ways in which caste relations of power impinge on the everyday lives of people in Mumbai and the ways in which resistance to this plays out.

Antar Bhasha

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Directors: Ankita Bhatkhande, Dinesh Kumar Mahapatra, Eleanor Almeida, Janminlian Vualnam, Shuaib Shafi
21 min, Marathi and English (with English subtitles)

The phenomenon of caste operates in various ways in an urban setting. Though not explicitly seen, through everyday relationships, it subtly operates through mechanisms like language. Although language seems like a natural or neutral phenomenon, one must realize its political nature. Through this film, we're attempting to delve deeper into the phenomenon of caste as operationalized within language, with respect to Marathi (as it is spoken in Mumbai), through its dialects. It’s an attempt to raise certain questions, like the notion of pure and impure Marathi, and who holds power because of their access to 'pure' Marathi. We will also look at how a particular dialect becomes a marker for one's caste and leads to exclusion and/or discrimination at various levels. In an urban space, it is critical to look at the affect that the compulsion of unlearning one's caste dialect has, since it is not only about reworking one's vocabulary and individual habits, but also leads to an erasure of memory and association with one's community.

Silence Please!

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Directors: Elisha Walia, Faebitha Rahiman, Nevin Thomas, Shubhra Dixit, Smita Vanniyar
22 min, Marathi, Hindi and English (with English subtitles)

"It is a small paragraph in our history textbook"
"No, it is not there anymore"
The film is an exploration of how caste is dealt in different schools of Mumbai city. Through interviews and personal accounts of the students, teachers and education experts, the film questions the politics behind caste being "history" and how it is made invisible in the urban space. By extension the film also look at the attitudes of students and teachers towards the subject of reservation and food choices.


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Directors: Deepti Murali, Disha K R, Kshitij Katiyar, Nishajyoti Sharma
27 min, Marathi and Hindi (with English subtitles)

Two first generation Dalit migrants reminisce about their past sharing the implications of their caste identity as they moved to Mumbai-the city of Dreams. The film looks into their lives exploring their views about discrimination, religion, marriage, education and upward mobility; as they have transformed over the years. Juxtaposing their encounters with caste in village and the city, the narrative traces the subtleties with which caste gets manifested in the various aspects of their everyday lives. Does the city provide a refuge from rigid structures of caste that pervade rural India or has Ambedkar's historical dictum fallen short? How can a Dalit retain his caste identity with pride without being victimised by societal structures set in disfavouring hierarchies due to years of oppression? Addressing such questions, the film seeks to establish Anita and Prakash's negotiation within an urban setting to keep their caste identity intact while seeking deliverance from old-age hierarchies and the systemic conservatism.

Jaat Baaja Baarat

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Directors:  Ashwin Nag, Aditi Maddali, Priyanka Pal, Shreya Sinha (Alia), Robin Zutshi
21 min, Marathi, Hindi and English (with English subtitles)

'Jaat Baaja Baraat' is definitely a film about marriage... but whether you look at two unfolding stories of love lost and love regained in Bombay, the twisted tale of a twenty-something woman seeking marital bliss, or listen to the disembodied voices of insecure filmmakers- the one thing you cannot escape is caste. Through the stories of Shekhar and Shanti, Rajesh and Bhavana, and the voices of the Arya Samaj and the All India Democratic Women's Association, the film attempts an exploration of love and inter-caste marriage in the city of Bombay.

Caste on the Menu Card

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Directors: Ananyaa Gaur, Anurup Khillare, Atul Anand, Reetika Revathy Subramanian, Vaseem Chaudhary
21 min, Marathi, Hindi and English (with English subtitles)

The film delves into the idea of food as a site of exclusion by focusing on beef-eating practices in Mumbai. It attempts to portray the prevalence of caste differentiations as seen in the food choices of people in the city and touches upon concerns related to livelihood, social inclusion and human rights. By tracing the mythological and historical roots of the meat-eating culture in our country, the film discusses the hierarchy maintained by Brahminical preferences and its intended subversions. This is seen in the stand taken on dealing with the political economy of the leather and meat industries. The film also follows the ruptured background of universities’ caste politics over the demand of inclusion of beef in institutions. It observes that many restaurants in Mumbai offer beef delicacies, but off the menu. Thus, the film reads ‘Caste on the Menu Card’.

Not Caste in Stone

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Directors: Firdaus Soni, Keduokhrietuo Sachu, Kritika Agarwal, Prateek Shekhar, Vaibhav B. Sorte
31 min, Tamil, Hindi and Marathi (with English subtitles)

The film tries to understand the significance of a temple while delving into attributes like caste and power associated with it. It tries to do so, through the story of a more than a century old temple in the heart of Mumbai city, in Dharavi. The Adi-Dravida, a dalit community from Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu had started migrating to Bombay in the late 19th century. Apart from other occupations, most of the people from their caste worked in the leather tanneries. In the hustle of the Ganpati festival preparations, organized by the newly elected temple committee, the film explores the history of migration and occupation, understands how Matunga is an exclusionary space and the significance of the temple in everyday life of the people from this community.

School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai