Tuesday, 21 March, 2023
HomeOpinion6 things an anti-caste woke must be mindful of in Ayushmann Khurrana’s...

6 things an anti-caste woke must be mindful of in Ayushmann Khurrana’s new film Article 15

The movie ignores the fact that caste has changed its location and now resides in top universities and power corridors of the country.

Text Size:

Within just a day of its release Thursday evening, the trailer of Bollywood movie Article 15, directed by Anubhav Sinha, was watched by more than 8 million viewers on YouTube. Critics were quick to hail it as a film ‘exposing the horrors of caste prejudice’ and ‘uncloaking the reality of India’s caste system’. Some said the movie ‘takes on caste discrimination’ and gives a voice to ‘those suffocated as a result of the social discrimination so prevalent in the rural parts of the country’, and called it a ‘must-watch’.

Yes, confronting the issue of caste is in itself a revolutionary act in India. For accepting the existence of caste, raising the issue of caste atrocity and making a movie on this subject, Anubhav Sinha must be applauded. Because, after all, you cannot have real political and economic reforms in India unless you kill the “monster” of the caste system. (B.R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste, 1936).

To see ‘the monster’ is important, but for any artwork, book, movie or TV serial to be hailed as anti-caste, it must not perpetuate and reproduce the same stereotypes that actually sustain the caste system in the Indian democracy.

Also read: Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika fails Dalit warrior Jhalkaribai with 5 min role and ‘item’ song

If you are truly an anti-caste woke, here are six things to be mindful of when you watch this movie, which releases 28 June.

1. The lead character of the movie, a Brahmin male IPS officer, played by Ayushmann Khurrana, is the saviour who fights the caste atrocity, on behalf of the Dalits. The Dalits, who have been waging a relentless struggle against caste system for ages with their sweat and blood, have no agency in the movie. They are the subject matter, not the actors. They need to be saved, and that too by a Brahmin male who, according to B.R. Ambedkar in a paper submitted at the Columbia University’s anthropology seminar, is the creator of the caste system. It’s like the vintage Mohammed Rafi and Geeta Dutt song (1956) – Tumhi ne dard diya hai, tumhi dawa dena (you have caused me pain, you must provide me the cure).

2. This movie is likely to, once again, subtly convey to us that caste is a rural thing, absolving urban audiences of any wrongdoing. The likely message is: it’s the uneducated, boorish, poor people who practice caste.

3. In this movie, the lead character is casteless or caste-blind although he comes from a Brahmin family. He can effortlessly ask his subordinates MAIN KIS JAAT KA HOON (Which caste do I belong to?) as if he is unaware of the privileges he has got simply because he was born a Brahmin. The Jatav constable knows that he is a Jatav, the Kayastha policeman knows that he is a Kayastha, but the Brahmin officer does not know his caste. He is above caste because ‘others’ are from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward castes. To be casteless or caste-blind is a privilege that only upper caste can enjoy. Because caste is not a problem, rather a privilege for them; they can easily ignore its existence and still benefit from the social and cultural capital associated with it.

4. This movie ignores the fact that caste has changed its location and now resides in top universities, as in the case of Rohith Vemula. It resides in medical colleges, as seen in the case of Payal Tadvi and the persecution of Dalit students in AIIMS . It resides in the higher courts where judges from lower castes are missing. Lower castes continue to lack adequate representation in power centres, be it in bureaucracy, in government or in national media.

In rural India, caste manifests itself in a crude form and is easier to identify and fight, but in an urban setting, it appears in a less-obvious but equally potent form. Many urban upper caste Indians encounter caste in the context of reservation in government jobs and education and in the assertion of lower castes in politics. For them, if reservation goes and lower caste-dominated political parties wither away, the menace of caste will magically vanish.

5. The movie equates Harijan with Bahujan – two different identities of Dalits – and rejects both. The opening dialogue of the trailer is – ‘Kabhi hum harijan bane, kabhi bahujan, kabhi jan nahin ban sake (sometimes we have become Harijan, sometimes Bahujan, but never citizens)’. Bahujan is an assertive and powerful identity associated with the movement started by Kanshiram, and it envisages making Dalits, OBCs and other minorities the rulers of this country. It was the idea of Bahujan that heralded the Silent Revolution, which changed the political landscape of UP and Bihar in the 1990s. To equate Bahujan with Harijan is a facile and deliberately simplistic reading of Indian society and politics.

6. The movie Article 15, it appears, is a unitary reading of the Constitution as it only focuses on Clause 1 of the Article. This provision states – ‘The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.’ For a complete reading of Article 15, one must also go through Clauses 3 and 4. Clause 3 states ‘nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children’. And Clause 4 says ‘nothing in this article or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes’. Equality before law and special provisions for the disadvantaged sections are two constitutional concepts that should be read simultaneously.

Also read: Indian cinema’s C-problem: When an upper caste gets to play Jyotiba Phule

In a nutshell, Article 15 appears to be a movie made by an upper caste filmmaker for the upper caste audience. It is comforting to see an upper caste male act as a saviour liberating the Dalits. It cleverly camouflages the fact that caste is a creation of the upper castes and they continue to enjoy the many privileges associated with it. It is the upper caste privilege that allows one of them to make a film on caste and enlist big Bollywood actors for it.

This privilege helps them overlook the fact that their ancestors created one of the most discriminatory social systems in the world. And, they continue to benefit from this entrenched system, knowingly or unknowingly.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. I am sincerely hoping that the writer of this article consults a subject-matter expert and not a mediocre when facing a crisis, be it medical, legal, financial etc. A person getting a degree based on caste reservation or any other form of reservation (the most recent case “cheap gimmick played by Arvind Kejriwal to woo female voters”….) CAN NEVER KNOW THE VALUE OF KNOWLEDGE. All Bharatiyas must unanimously vow to eradicate reservation of ANY kinds, not even in case of women, kids or oldies. In fact, a healthy and evolved society is one where individuals are helped only if they are either genuinely needy or truly deserving.
    The situation inside government institutions is still pathetic in our nation because of rampant reservations. For instance, in our government hospitals, at all levels, we come across few or many individuals, who just have no idea about why they come to work, no skills, no expertise. Consequently the blooming of numerous private ones. Not even a single person, earning sufficiently well, dares to take services of a government hospital when faced with any medical problem. The same is the case with government schools, public sector undertakings, government financial institutions etc etc. They all offer such disgusting and frustrating and un-professional services. Reason for this dismal situation is -RESERVATION.

  2. अगर आपको दलित पर हुए अत्याचार पर समाज को दिखाना है तो सबसे ज्यादा अत्याचार मुग़ल आक्रंताओ ने किये थे और वो भी केवल दलितों पर नहीं सभी हिन्दुओ पर किये थे। लेकिन उनको तो शांतिदूत दिखाने का ठेका मिला हुआ है। अपने सच्चाई से क्या लेना देना है। आपको तो ब्राह्मण से परेशानी है ना। वैसे भी फिल्मो ने समाज को दिया ही क्या है ? फूहड़ता और नग्नता से सिवाय ??

  3. Mandal sir has rightly pointed out.bcz,wat d author is talking about may b jus seen in comments.how ignorant &privileged people behave.one is writing dat writer has passed clg long ago,so may b dat time discrimination was prevailing .bt nw scenario is changed.while another is writing dat due to reservation if ur loses one seat,ur comes to know about caste crimination.how it is affecting.upper caste may ignore caste bt he comes to know about caste wen faces reservation.bt lower castes comes to know about it frm very childhood through social behaviour.& movie is yet to come ,so we cant analyze fully.bt election result has come&portfolios also allocated.so,analysis show that lower castes rose above caste & upper castes kept itself intact to its favourite party.bt jus aftr result,upper castes ruled in d allocation of portfolios.so,shed ur naive image & understand reality.

  4. How stupid someone can be is evident from the piece of article this writer has wrote. While he could not understand the subtle message beneath Ayushman Khuranna’s dialogue asking “Which caste do I belong to” and angrily shouts on his colleagues who tries to persuade him with the fact that how they belong to other lower castes and how he is an upper caste brahmin. The character played by Ayushmann seems really angry that how police officers or human being say for that matter should use his/her caste identify! He angrily shouts on them that what is going on! And this writer completely mistakens this for Ayushmann not knowing his own caste and being ignorant towards caste “monster”. Such is his level of understanding!

    The second point here I want to raise is that although it’s a very valid point of discussion that a movie showing caste arithmetic should have at least main characters played by lower caste peoples.
    But you just cannot overrule it if it is not happening.
    You want to eradicate caste, what is the problem if an upper caste plays protagonist to fight caste menace!
    Instead it sends out a strong message in our urban public, who think casteism is not in existance in today’s century. You want caste to be eradicated then let it happen, why demand certain people playing it only, why reaffirm the casteist identity!

    The most important point about the rural caste structure. While the writer rightly argues that it only shows rural people practising caste, and not urban, but if a story is set in rural, how do you expect a director to show caste discrimination in both rural and urban at the same time!

    If he would have made a movie on caste discrimination entirely on urban background, then the scope for discussion would have remained.

    Our film industry slowly but effectively taking up different issues to show through the film medium. They will make certain mistakes earlier, but we have a long way to go. They will come up with it I guess.

  5. लेख में लेखक का ब्राहमण नायक के प्रति पूर्वाग्रह स्पष्ठ दिखाई देता है। लेखक के मन मे अंतर्निहित धारणा है कि दलित उत्थान के कार्य सिर्फ दलित ही कर सकते है उसके अलावा कोई करें तो वो ढोंगी है । इस मूवी का नायक ब्राह्मण है सिर्फ इसी आधार पर मूवी में जातिवादी मानसिकता ढूंढ लेना स्पष्ट दर्शाता है कि ब्राह्मण जाति के लोगो के प्रति कितनी घृणा भारी है आपके मन मे । सच का सामना करिये ओर वास्तविकता के धरातल पर आकर देखिये की जातिवादी मानसिकता पैदा करवाने वाले आप ही लोग है जो व्यक्ति के कर्म और भावनाओं के बाजय उसको जाती देखकर उसका विरोध करना शुरू कर देते है। जातिवादी मानसिकता को छोड़कर निष्पक्ष पत्रकारिता करिये ।

  6. मंडल सर ने कुछ ही पन्नों में चलचित्र दुनिया का कान सीधे शब्दों से पकड़ लिया है , कलाकार और निर्देशक की बाजीगरी 3 घंटे तक अच्छी लग सकती है मगर धरातल पर सवर्णों के कुकर्म और भी बढ़ जाएंगे।
    उनका यह लेख सिर्फ इस फिल्म के लिए नहीं और भी इसी प्रकार की फिल्मों , धारावाहिको पर भी लागू होता है।

  7. Mandal is one office the greatest authority of caste system in India. He is the Doctor who can diagnose the disease and knows how to treat and cure. He is doing a great service to the nation.

  8. Agree truly with the above comments
    We should be glad first that this issue is being addressed, criticise second
    Also there is discrimination at university level because the real problems at the village level faced by the so called lower caste people stay alien to the urban student body. It is necessary to address this issue wherein the village brahmin and thakur atrocize the poor and the dalit. Only then shall the urban youth realise how imp reservation is and how imp is it to not discriminate and consider their opportunities stolen.

  9. Should all the so-called UC people die? What is the solution to imaginary problems listed by Dilip Mandal. Clearly he needs psychiatric help.

  10. To point 1, “tumhi ne dard diya…” the article seems to insinuate present day upper caste youth is responsible for current day plight of backward classes.If it were a backward caste protagonist, the article would have probably said upper castes are ignorant/don’t even want to support the lower castes.
    To point 2, the author has long passed out of university maybe .I can assure , no urban youth who has ever lost a seat to the reserved candidate, can ever forget caste.
    Agree with the third.Agree with fourth as well although lack of representation needs to be solved by providing better amenities, facilities and provision of free books to truly backward rather than free seats.
    Upper castes are truly privileged.
    But the article resents the privilege the upper castes enjoy when our focus should be to ensure that lower castes get the same privileges, no matter via a lower caste person, upper caste person or even a foreigner.
    In a nutshell, it is disheartening to see people analysing caste of the filmmaker , resenting upper castes for their privilege instead of applauding for spreading the true situation faced by our brothers & sisters to the ignorant privileged upper caste.

  11. The movie has not yet been released,so we can’t give such a detailed overview about it
    There are certain points from this article that according to my personal opinion needs a review.
    1.In points 1 and 3 ,the author highlights the issue of the protagonist being an upper caste Brahmin .Well, the case of an uppercaste Brahmin standing firmly by the constitution against caste discrimination, sends a message that not all upper castes are anti dalit or casteist It shows that despite the differences whether in caste or creed ,everyone should be united against such atrocities. It also tries to tell us that caste oppression, honor killings etc. is not the problem of a certain community,but of our nation as a whole.
    2.The scene in the trailer , where Ayushmann enquires about his caste and that of his fellow officers , does not mean that the protagonist is unaware of his caste, But Anubhav Sinha uses this scene to show his audience how deeply the caste system is rooted in the minds of the public and also how deeply we are divided on the basis of that..
    3. Even when the reservation system is beneficial to the lower castes, In many areas it is seen by the upper castes and the generals as something used by the lower castes to ‘steal’ their opportunities in the academic as well as in the professional arena . And reservations will have little use unless we solve the grassroot problem i.e, the mentality of the people ,unless the mindset is set right, reservation will actually be a tool to divide the public further. Discrimination and acts of hate towards the lower sections will continue to go on if we continue to concentrate on eradicating caste discrimination by reservations rather than by eradicating the caste system itself.
    The author has raised the issue of urban casteism and Bahujan-Harijan comparison in a commendable manner,But I strongly disagree with the phrase ‘A movie made by an upper caste for upper caste audience’ , Of course it sends a message to its upper caste audience, But it does not tell them that they are superior,But rather blames their superiority for all the atrocities happening on the basis of the caste , and that Its not only the lower castes who should fight for their rights, but its the duty of each and every citizen to do so.

    • “Discrimination and acts of hate towards the lower sections will continue to go on if we continue to concentrate on eradicating caste discrimination by reservations rather than by eradicating the caste system itself.”
      How do you propose we end the caste system?.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular