ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Cracked Mirror to Social Reality

Web series like Aashram offer more honest and rooted representations of Dalit communities, but not entirely without a Savarna gaze.

Mainstream popular culture has usually endorsed and furthered the cultural interests of the social elites only. Consequently, the representation of the Dalit–Bahujan communities in cinema and television has often been stereotypical. Thanks to online streaming platforms, this pattern is now seeing a slow but visible change with stories that depict realities of caste-based social relationships.

Prakash Jha’s Aashram (2020) foregrounds a promising set of Dalit characters, offering a critical narrative about a religious cult, exploring the conflicting social and political battles woven around it. It presents the life of godman Baba Nirala with an uncanny resemblance to the controversial spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Despite being from a dominant caste, Rahim and his organisation “Dera Sacha Sauda” had a significant following among Dalit and other marginalised communities. Through welfare initiatives and populist methods, he had become an influential figure in the social and political life of Haryana and Punjab. Aashram, clearly inspired by this context, keeps the godman at the centre of the narrative, weaving parallel narratives that showcase the complex social actualities of our times.

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Updated On : 9th Apr, 2021
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