Caste System is one of the major problems in India that has a great hand in paralyzing the growth of the nation—both economical and social. However, thanks to the media and Bollywood, awareness against the imposition of caste based value judgment system is beginning to see a downfall. And, this is not new to this modern age; Bollywood is against this social evil since years, and a glimpse of this can be seen in Hindi films fighting this evil over the years. Let’s have a look at some of the best films against Caste System—
5. Achhut Kanya
Considered as one of the “reformist period-piece” by many critics, this 1936 film deals with the pathetic life led by the Dalit girls, and about their position in the society. This is one of the earliest examples of unhappy love stories filmed in Bollywood between lovers coming from different social positions of the society. The film starred the famous actor Ashok Kumar alongside the lead actress Devika Rani who played the role of a Harijan.
Coming as early as 1936 when India was steeped into the dark ages of Caste System and Gender Inequalities, this film, focusing a girl as the pivot of the story, was indeed a coming-of-an-age venture and is worth a huge round of applause even now!
Considered as of the major successes of Bollywood, Sujata was yet another masterpiece by the great director Bimal Roy whose expertise lied in portraying the innate essence of Indian Society onscreen. Backed by an expert ensemble cast and crew, this 1959-60 film wraps a social critique of Indian society’s love for caste-based value judgment in the garb of a love story between two people of different social castes. If you thought that Bollywood cannot produce reformist films without being preachy, do watch this film.
Also Read: 7 Best Art Films Ever Made In Bollywood
If films depicting the social evils of the Indian society are to be discussed, then one cannot leave behind the master director Shyam Benegal off the list. Ankur, a gem by Benegal, is one such film which discusses and attacks many evil social rituals—the caste system being the foremost of them all. It provides a deep insight into the vigorous caste system that is seen and is a part of rural India; and, with the lead actress playing the role of a jeopardized dalit girl, the drama takes on a whole new level. It’s a film that’s truly worth a watch, not only for its non-preachy reformist attitude but also for its cinematic brilliance.
2. Bandit Queen
Whether you love or hate Bollywood films, Bandit Queen is one such film which everyone loves and appreciates. Based on the life of Phoolan Devi, the infamous dacoit from India, the film focuses highlights all the trauma and injustice that women of lower castes (specifically, in rural India) have to face every single day in the hands of the Thakurs, or the feudal lords. Although it’s isn’t a documentary, the film blatantly puts forth all the caste-related issues of India, without trying to reform the society or be preachy—and herein lies the charm of the film.
Although we have been going chronologically throughout the listicle, yet we had to break this and save the best for the last. Coming from the kitty of the man himself, Satyajit Ray, Sadgati has been derived from a novel of the same name by Munshi Premchand. In less than one hour, Ray tells the story of Dukhi, a poor Dalit, who, in exchange for some money for his daughter’s marriage, works for free for the village’s main priest. Working under inhuman conditions and relentlessly for day in and day out, he succumbs to death—and what follows afterwards is a heartrending saga of vicious atrocities of the Indian Caste System. Do give the film a watch if you’re still in the dark about its existence.