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

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The Making of ‘Sisoti’

Caste has remained implicit in Bollywood, appearing as class or as an unmarked subjecthood located in generalised north Indian identity. Through our article, we seek to understand what might be the grammar of caste representation in the film Manthan, which, in fact, is remembered more as a film about the “Amul experiment,” than about caste. How the word “society” transforms into “sisoti” in the film and how this process of translation leaves the villagers with a residual meaning are analysed in this article. This spillover of meaning eventually helps the characters deconstruct and recalibrate caste relations in the film. Chahat

Agendas of social transformation and hurdles on the ground are usually seen as temporary and bureaucratic problems, which can be ironed over a period of time. However, the incompleteness of social transformation or even unintended consequences may provide us with interesting insights into the leftovers of translation—as processes of meaning-making that always leave residues behind. So, when a well-meaning upper-caste man—or pardesi1—arrives in a rural part of the world to change, organise and increase the efficiency of economic goods, it may be assumed that the task is arduous but ideologically well-placed. However, what are some of the meanings that escape this agenda, and how does it reveal a lack of self-reflection in the well-meaning pardesi? Such questions underpin our discussion of Shyam Benegal’s Manthan (1976), a proud addition in his acclaimed oeuvre.

The film is remembered as one that introduced Smita Patil and also which enshrined the unusual “Amul experiment”2 in the cinematic and popular mode. A cross between feature film and documentary, Manthan has slipped through the cracks as far as academic film studies are concerned. The few scholars who have delved into analysing the film have viewed it as part of the project of parallel cinema to serve a social function.3

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Updated On : 28th Nov, 2022
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