Ardh Satya and the half-truths of parallel cinema


Rahul Gaikwad

So the other day, I was just thinking about how and when anti-corruption rhetoric got currency in this society. We saw it at its full ugly zenith during the India Against Corruption campaign led by the Anna Hazare and Kejriwal duo, well aided by the mainstream media. Suddenly, I was reminded me of the movie, Ardh Satya (1983), for it had impacted me through showing a grim reality I had seen from close quarters. At the same time, it also reminded me how I could never relate to the protagonist, the brahmin character, 'Velankar'. Then I thought to myself the ideal question this society should be asking is: why does Dharavi exists in the first place? Instead, this movie made sure to project that a 'Velankar' is as equal a victim as a Kamble or any other bahujan. That's where I couldn't connect and that is when I felt the narrative that was given shape through this movie formed the bedrock or was a precursor leading up to anti-corruption rhetoric which attained full vigour in 2011 during the IAC movement, or moment shall I say.

ardh satya

The movie is about an 'upright Brahmin' police sub-inspector Anant Velankar who is hounded and harassed by a slumlord, Rama Shetty, whose business interests involve all kinds of illegal activities. The movie portrays how the slumlord continues to outwit and harass this honest cop using his political connections; the movie shows how the police works with the mafia. The whole system is so corrupt that this honest cop, Velankar, finds tolerating it increasingly difficult so he fights back the whole slumlord and political-police nexus. The movie remains one of the most watched police movies from the "parallel cinema" which has got as good an audience as a mainstream film.

On further research, I realised though this movie is celebrated as a landmark and is said to be based on a novel but is actually inspired from the real life battle between the don from Dharavi-Matunga, Varadarajan Mudaliar and the then DCP YC Pawar. Then it got me thinking more: this movie just can't be a movie based on some novel as it is claimed to be, though Vijay Tendulkar, famous Marathi playwright, wrote the screenplay for this movie. Because just a couple of years before this movie was made, IPS YC Pawar had taken Mumbai by storm. He would take on the most dreaded Dharavi don, Varadarajan, in his own daredevilry and finish his empire single-handedly. Now Mr YC Pawar came from a small town in Maharashtra and belonged to the Chambhar caste; so he was a Dalit or an officer from the Scheduled Castes who had done what no other officer had dared to do in Mumbai.

When I realised this was the actual backdrop of the movie and the actual hero was a Dalit, and when I see the movie, the protagonist is a brahmin character, 'Velankar', it made things clear as to how the Brahmin-Savarna never acknowledge heroes from the subaltern, all they want is just victimhood from this class, as being the oppressors they also want to be the messiahs rescuing the oppressed. This superiority complex stemming from caste makes sure Tendulkar-Nihalani can't fathom a hero from the subaltern or Dalit background, and quite contrary to the reality, install a brahmin hero, 'Velankar'.

If at all Dalits feature anywhere in their narratives, it is only as dumb helpless victims to be rescued by upper caste saviours (in fact, Tendulkar goes ahead of this and demonizes Dalits thourgh his play, Kanyadan). For them, any real hero coming from the subaltern, from the oppressed, is an anathema. That is why Pawar does not get any recognition from this duo and yet they are acknowledged for liberal progressive credentials by their own lot. What this shows is only caste hegemony, parallel cinema is thus parallel caste. No different from mainstream cinema, media or academia.

But as mentioned earlier I personally feel this movie played an important role in building that narrative that we all are equal victims of this menace called corruption and hence we are all equals. So Velankar is as equal a victim as a Kamble in this caste society, whereas in reality that caste is the biggest fraud/corruption that has determined the basis of all material existence and inequality in this society is completely erased through this narrative. That this anti-corruption rhetoric was pushed only to silence any discussion around caste is so obvious now.

Another "parallel movie" which is highly acclaimed is Jabbar Patel's Marathi movie Mukta (1994). In this movie the protagonist is shown to be a Dalit man who is shown to be equally patriarchal and violent when he gets jealous of his savarna girlfriend's black male friend and beats him up. So, as you see Dalit assertion growing from Dalit Panthers confronting the oppressor, immediately we see Jabbar Patel (who is associated with so called liberal socialist progressives in Maharashtra) painting the Dalit hero in Mukta as violently masculine towards his savarna girlfriend. This stereotype was given birth through this "parallel cinema". This movie won some 'national integration' award too. No wonder this narrative was run equally effectively or rather more effectively by Brahmin academics like Sharmila Rege, concurrently, in that decade.

The movie "Court",  released in the year 2014, similarly tries to mislead in the guise of appearing progressive, while showing how the court as an institution is a failure and how the Ambedkarite activist can only be a victim who is without much voice, a sorry figure. Although it may have earned accolades globally for showing the inept judiciary, it very smartly diverted attention from the question of caste. It showed judiciary as a failure as if it is an automated/independent machinery devoid of people in flesh and blood without any caste consciousness. Representative judiciary is the need of the hour, to imagine that people become casteless just by occupying chairs based on high principles is very childish. So the savarna director Tamhane shows judges to be corrupt, inefficient and even superstitious in this movie but that remains only a individual trait and has no relation to caste or caste interests is the message sent by this movie. How do you expect such "parallel" cinema to ever speak the truth?


Even if one turns towards 'light hearted' movies like 'Katha' by Sai Paranjpye all you get to see is caste, but Brahmin this time, about "their mannerisms and their culture". What is radical about it is difficult to understand. If some ideas about modernity or sex or lifestyle or clothes is to be considered radical then she goes beyond that all to still continue with caste endogamy through this "parallel" cinema.

Parallel cinema is thus parallel caste hardly connected with or concerned about the large majority, bahujans, of this land.



Rahul Gaikwad is an independent researcher.

Images courtesy: the internet.

Other Related Articles

Two talented youngsters and their life of songs
Friday, 03 December 2021
  C K Premkumar [P S Banerjee and Mathayi Sunil bagged the Kerala government’s folklore awards this year. They are being introduced to the readers by their friend, through this article.] It... Read More...
Jayanti: The story of a revolutionary transformation
Friday, 03 December 2021
  Nikhil Walde Jayanti is a very unique movie in Marathi Cinema that touches the very core of Ambedkar's philosophy and his vision of 'Educate, Agitate and Organise'. The movie is directed by... Read More...
The making of the Indian Constitution- Excerpts from the Constituent Assembly debates
Wednesday, 01 December 2021
  Dr Jas Simran Kehal The constitution is apparently revered but it is not celebrated- Stephen M. Griffin. Constitution is not a mere lawyer's document, it is a vehicle of life, and its spirit... Read More...
Jayanti: The Roaring Story of Oppressed Unity and Transformation
Tuesday, 30 November 2021
   Vicky Nandgaye, Manoj Meshram Prelude: Central Theme and Cast of the Movie Recently a Marathi movie 'Jayanti' was released on the big screen in Maharashtra. Jayanti is a Marathi word... Read More...
Jayanti: A celebration of Bahujan history and autonomy
Sunday, 28 November 2021
  JS Vinay The recently released Marathi movie 'Jayanti' is creating waves in the Marathi circles. Based on my understanding , I will try to share some points (not in order of preference) as a... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Govt. of India should send One Lakh SC ST youths abroad for Higher Education
Monday, 21 June 2021
  Anshul Kumar Men sitting on the pinnacle of the palace "So, I went one day to Linlithgow and said, concerning the expense of education, "If you will not get angry, I want to ask a question. I... Read More...
Reflections On Contemporary Navayana Buddhism - Context, Debates and Theories
Tuesday, 10 August 2021
  The Shared Mirror    PRE RELEASE COPY Reflections on Contemporary Navayāna Buddhism Context, Debates and Theories     Shaileshkumar Darokar Subodh Wasnik bodhi s.r ... Read More...
Conceiving a New Public: Ambedkar on Universities
Saturday, 26 June 2021
Asha Singh & Nidhin Donald Dr. B.R. Ambedkar conceptualizes education as a ‘vital need’ which helps us fight notions of ‘inescapable fate’ or ‘ascriptions of caste or religion’. He... Read More...
Caste management through feminism in India
Friday, 06 August 2021
Kanika S There was a time some 5-6 years ago when feminism tried to undermine Dr Ambedkar by pointing out that he carried a penis.1 Now he is just as fantastically a carrier of feminist ideals... Read More...
Rainbow casteism and racism in the queer community is alienating us
Monday, 28 June 2021
  Sophia I entered the Delhi queer movement in my early 20s, as a complete outsider in terms of language, origin, race, class, and caste identity. I wanted to bring change to the status quo and... Read More...