Mari Selvaraj’s 2018 breakout Tamil hit Pariyerum Perumal, Pa Ranjith’s Rajinikath-starrer Kaala (2018), Neeraj Ghaywan’s Hindi drama Masaan (2015) and Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi drama Fandry (2013) are among the titles that will be screened at the inaugural New York Dalit Film and Cultural Festival this month, the organisers announced in a press note.
The festival, to be held on February 23 and 24, has been organised by a coalition of the Ambedkar International Mission USA, Ambedkar Association of North America, Boston Study Group and the Ambedkar Buddhist Association Texas. The festival is co-sponsored and hosted by Barnard College, Columbia University and The New School, New York. Pa Ranjith, Manjule and actress Niharika Singh will inaugurate the event.
The event aims to start a dialogue on the lack of Dalit representation in films and “expose to the world the nuances of Dalit life that are buried underneath the popular forms of artistic expressions”, the organisers said in the press release. The selected movies and documentaries “offer nuanced, never-before-seen forms of Dalit society and culture”, the note added.
The other selections include Premraj’s Saranam Gacchami (2017), a Telugu movie that examines caste-based reservations, Jayan K Cherian’s Papilio Buddha (2013), which explores Dalit identity politics in Kerala and Bole India Jai Bheem (2016), a Marathi biopic about social reformer Hardas Laxman Rao Nagrale.
The festival will also showcase art, literature, and photography by Dalits, the press note said.
The documentaries that will be screened include the manual scavenging-themed Kakkoos, Manjule’s short film Pistulya, about a boy who wants to be educated, Deepa Dhanraj’s We Have Not Come Here to Die, about the countrywide protests sparked by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in January 2016 and The Battle of Bhima Koregaon, about the annual gathering on the outskirts of Pune on January 1 to celebrate the victory of a contingent of the British Army that comprised a large number of soldiers from the Mahar scheduled caste against Maratha forces in 1818.