Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 16.08.15

Mother, minor daughter allegedly raped – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mother-minor-daughter-allegedly-raped/article7542822.ece?ref=tpnews

40 Hurt, 15 Houses, Temple Car Torched in Villupuram – The Indian Express

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/40-Hurt-15-Houses-Temple-Car-Torched-in-Villupuram/2015/08/16/article2976770.ece

Students attempt suicide citing lack of facilities at school in Maharashtra district – The Indian Express

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/students-attempt-suicide-citing-lack-of-facilities-at-school-in-maharashtra-district/

Ambedkar Law University Violates GO; Takes Fee From SC/STs – The New Indian Express

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Ambedkar-Law-University-Violates-GO-Takes-Fee-From-SCSTs/2015/08/16/article2976779.ece

Mahadalits may turn out to be key factor – Deccan Herald

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/495407/mahadalits-may-turn-key-factor.html

It was Lavanam who uprooted Jogini system in Nizamabad – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/it-was-lavanam-who-uprooted-jogini-system-in-nizamabad/article7546118.ece?ref=tpnews

Voice of Transgender in Bengaluru – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/battle-for-bengaluru-transgender-begins-campaigning-in-bengaluru/article7544584.ece

Common men, uncommon heroes – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/baradwaj-rangan-on-the-rise-of-unknown-protagonist-in-cinema-common-men-uncommon-heroes/article7544532.ece

Please Watch:

India after Independence Lec 14

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRXj7L8F_Wg

An Appeal!

Save Dalit Foundation: Educate, agitate & organize! – Dr. Ambedkar. Let us all educates to agitate & Organize to Save Dalit Foundation ! Please sign petition by click this link : https://t.co/WXxFdysoJK

The Hindu

 Mother, minor daughter allegedly raped

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mother-minor-daughter-allegedly-raped/article7542822.ece?ref=tpnews

A 30-year-old woman and her 10- year-old daughter have been allegedly raped by a family friend in Faridabad, police said.

In the complaint filed by the woman, she said that she is a resident of Dabua Colony in Faridabad and her husband used to work with a factory in Sector-24 Faridabad.

The accused has been identified as 27-year-old Dilip hailing from Balia in UP. He was working with victim’s husband in the factory, police said.

Dilip, presently residing in Sector-22 Faridabad, became friends with victim’s husband.

He then began to visit their house, they said.

A few days back, Dilip visited the woman’s house while she was alone and raped her. He also threatened her for life if she reveals the incident to anyone, police said.

On August 6, daughter of the couple had gone to her school but when she returned, she was not well.

Upon asking, she said “Dilip Uncle took me from school after the day and took me to his room”.

She told her mother of being raped by Dilip. She said that Dilip also threatened her of life if she tells anyone about the incident.

After the incident, the woman filed a complaint and a case was registered under IPC Sections 376 (rape), 506 (criminal intimidation), 363 (kidnapping), 366 (abduction) and Section 6 of POCSO.

Section 3 of SCST Act has also been invoked in the case.

The Indian Express

 40 Hurt, 15 Houses, Temple Car Torched in Villupuram

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/40-Hurt-15-Houses-Temple-Car-Torched-in-Villupuram/2015/08/16/article2976770.ece

By Bagalavan Perier B | ENS Published: 16th August 2015 04:37 AM Last Updated: 16th August 2015 04:37 AM

VILLUPURAM: Even before the Independence Day festivities were over, a major caste clash broke out at Villupuram late on Saturday in which several huts were torched, many were attacked and police personnel, including the district superintendent of police, were injured.

The clash began around 8.30 pm over Dalits taking their temple car procession through the main road in Seshasamudram in Sankarapuram Taluk – a Vanniyar area. The issue has been simmering for at least three years, said sources, adding that the procession was undertaken this time after obtaining the nod from the district collector.

On Saturday night, an unidentified person torched the temple car, which was kept near the Mariamman temple for the procession on Sunday. That triggered the initial round of clash between Vanniyars and Dalits.

Police suspect that it could have been done by a group of Vanniyars who were returning from a protest organised by the Pattali Makkal Katchi at Kallakkurichi seeking prohibition, led by its Chief Ministerial candidate and Dharmapuri MP, Anbumani Ramadoss.

Soon after the first incident, a gang of Vanniayars allegedly entered the Dalit hamlet and set many huts afire and attacked the people there. At least 15 huts and houses were torched, and around 40 people injured.

After being alerted about the incident, a police force led by district SP K S Narendran Nair rushed to Seshasamudram to bring the situation under control. However, according to sources, the official and his party were welcomed by a hail of stones, injuring many, including the SP.

The situation was so tense that the police had to fire to the air many times to even gain entry into the area, as the Vanniyar community members refused to let the personnel pass through their stronghold to reach the Dalit hamlet. There were fire tenders and personnel ready to go in to douse the fire, but had to be stationary, as the situation continued to remain tense.

According to sources, it finally took a rain that continued for nearly an hour to put out the fire, and also calm the situation. Additional police force, including armed police, have been rushed to the spot. At the time of going to print, officials were considering all options if the mob violence continued.

At a meeting held at Sankarapuram taluk office late on Saturday night, it was decided to organise the car procession on Sunday.

The Indian Express

 Students attempt suicide citing lack of facilities at school in Maharashtra district

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/students-attempt-suicide-citing-lack-of-facilities-at-school-in-maharashtra-district/

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur | Published:August 15, 2015 6:27 pm

Chandrapur MP Hansraj Ahir, Ballarpur MLA and state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and a host of government officials rushed to the hospital to meet the students.

Four junior college students from an ashram school in the remote Jivti tehsil of Chandrapur district attempted suicide immediately after the flag hoisting ceremony at the school, citing lack of teachers and other facilities as reasons.

Krishna Rathore, 19, Premdas Rathore, 18, Prafulla Rathore, 17 and Pravin Jadhao, 18 consumed insecticide at their Dampur (Mauja) village school, Vitthalrao Jadhav Kanishtha Mahavidyalaya, from the bottles they were carrying in their pockets on Sunday morning. The school authorities immediately rushed them to Rajura, the tehsil place, where doctors carried out cleaning of their bowels before rushing them to the Chandrapur Government Hospital. Their condition is stated to be now out of danger.

“They were carrying chits in their pockets where they had listed complaints about lack of facilities at their school including lack of teachers,” said the Superintendent of Police, Sandip Diwan.

Chandrapur MP Hansraj Ahir, Ballarpur MLA and state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and a host of government officials rushed to the hospital to meet the students.

Pravin was carrying chocolates in his pockets which he offered to Mungantiwar in a dramatic scene, telling him about his birthday. Mungantiwar promised strict action against the authorities running the private aided school. Mungantiwar then gave a pep talk to the students that they should give up and must make a resolve on the Independence Day to fight on.

Social activist Paromita Goswami, who met the students, told The Indian Express, “lack of facilities at such schools is very common across India, but what is more serious is that the students possibly had no grievance redressal mechanism to fall back on forcing them think of drastic steps like suicide. Lack of facilities isn’t a big issue here but, as I could understand after talking to them, they were frustrated with non-availability of teachers.”

Goswami further said, “each school is mandatorily supposed to have school management committee comprising representatives from parents, education experts, women, SC/ST communities, panchayat members, etc. These committees apparently go defunct or remain only on papers. So, the school authorities tend to ignore the complaints of the students.”

The New Indian Express

 Ambedkar Law University Violates GO; Takes Fee From SC/STs

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Ambedkar-Law-University-Violates-GO-Takes-Fee-From-SCSTs/2015/08/16/article2976779.ece

By Ram M Sundaram | ENS Published: 16th August 2015 05:00 AM  Last Updated: 16th August 2015 05:00 AM

CHENNAI:The Tamil Nadu Ambedkar Law University has allegedly been collecting fees from students belonging to SC/ST communities for the past two years, flouting State Government Order No.92 issued by the Department of Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, which states that all SC, ST, converted SC and ST Christians with parents’/guardians’ annual income less than Rs 2.50 lakh are exempt from payment of tuition fees.

The GO also mandates that the government will reimburse the amount waived on behalf of students to the institution in the beginning of every academic year.

Express received a complaint that the School of Excellence in Law (SOEL) (attached to the Ambedkar Law University) has been collecting fees from postgraduate students for the past two years. The SOEL offers PG courses leading to a two-year LL.M degree. For each of the nine branches, 20 students are admitted based on the State reservation policy.

All the PG students including the SC, ST, SCC and SCA were asked to pay a fee of Rs 20,000 as tuition fees for each year, receipts of which are in possession of Express.

An SOEL student requesting anonymity said that when they asked about the tuition-fee exemption, the university officials said  they would return the fees once the government reimbursed the amount.

Students approaching the bank for a loan to fund their education were denied the loans as the banks pointed out that the government would fund their entire fees.

“Because of this, we are caught on a no-man’s land and are facing financial difficulties,” the student said.

When Express contacted the Vice-Chancellor of the Ambedkar Law University, P Vanangamudi, he claimed that the university was an autonomous body functioning under the University Grants Commission (UGC) and hence did not come under the GO.

However, this claim was rejected by P Annamalai, the secretary of the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department, who said the aforesaid GO was applicable to all law colleges in Tamil Nadu.

Vanangamudi said the institution ran primarily on fees collected from students and that he was ready to move along with the government to extend support to all SC, ST, SCA and SCC students by reimbursing the amount once the government reimbursed the institution. 

A senior official from Anna University too confirmed that other universities under the UGC were not exempt from the GO.

He added no tuition fees were collected from eligible SC, ST, SCC and SCA students from 2012 at Anna University.

This is not an isolated incident as the former Adi Dravidar Department Secretary Kannagi Packianathan had sent a circular to the Director of College Education, Director of Technical Education and Director of Medical Education this February.

The official informed them that the department received several complaints that several government-aided colleges collected tuition fees from the SC, ST, SCC and SCA students against the GO No.92 and requested officials to follow up on the issue.

Deccan Herald

 Mahadalits may turn out to be key factor

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/495407/mahadalits-may-turn-key-factor.html

August 16, 2015, DHNS

Three days before he was handpicked by his mentor Nitish Kumar and coronated as the Bihar’s first Mahadalit chief minister in May 2014, very few people in and outside Bihar had heard about Jitan Ram Manjhi. He had come a poor third while contesting the parliamentary elections as the JD(U) nominee from his home turf Gaya Lok Sabha constituency last year.

The soft-spoken Manjhi was asked to contest Lok Sabha polls from the reserved constituency but he lost to BJP’s Hari Manjhi.  But one year down the line, the same Manjhi, after being unceremoniously removed as CM, has turned into a self-styled Mahadalit icon.

Having assiduously cultivated the Mahadalit constituency, which, along with other dalits form nearly 16 per cent of the electorate in the caste-ridden Bihar, Manjhi misses no opportunity in spewing venom on his former mentors – Nitish, Lalu and the Congress. Ironically, Manjhi began his career as a Congress legislator in 1985, became minister in successive Congress regimes before crossing over to the RJD where he served under Rabri Devi too. In 2005, he joined the JD(U) and was again made a minister when Nitish uprooted Lalu-Rabri raj.

But why Manjhi, after being shown the door by the JD(U) is being pampered by the BJP-led NDA? The reasons are one too many. It’s a common knowledge that the large chunk of 15 per cent upper caste voters in Bihar are solidly behind the BJP. With the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress joining hands, the entire Muslim community (comprising 16 per cent) are likely to put their weight behind the Janata Parivar-led alliance.

That leaves 51 per cent backwards, better known as OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and 16 per cent Dalits/Mahadalits, besides two per cent tribals. Of the OBCs, the large chunk of Yadavs (14 per cent) and Kurmis/Koeris (Nitish castemen: comprising 7 pc) are likely to back the secular alliance while the EBCs (extremely backward castes, comprising 30 pc) may be split between the two alliances headed for a direct contest. 

The remaining, the 16 per cent Mahadalits/dalits, are vulnerable to be poached by both the camps. While the Nitish regime may have doled out largesse to this marginalised section, the fact that dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan and Mahadalit leader Manjhi, both are with the NDA, gives the BJP an additional advantage.

Manjhi’s clout can be gauged from the fact that Lalu, till last moment, made an unsuccessful attempt that he (Manjhi) was not shown the door. Even today, Lalu does not speak ill of Manjhi, aware of the fact this could antagonise his vote bank among the weaker sections. Mahadalits too are not averse to backing the RJD, but won’t do so when it will come to the JD(U) nominees. Such is their antipathy towards Nitish for the humiliation he had inflicted on Manjhi.

 Source of strength

“It’s true that Nitish created the Mahadalit constituency. It is equally true that Nitish created Manjhi, who, otherwise, would have remained a minister in the Nitish cabinet. But having tasted power once, Manjhi’s ambition grew disproportionate to his known source of strength. The BJP will soon realise that the man who could not remain loyal to the Congress, the RJD and, above all, Nitish Kumar, will not mind in switching over his loyalty once again,” explained political scientist Ajay Kumar.

 But, he says, as of now, Mahadalits are annoyed with Nitish. “It’s true that Nitish doled out sops, including dwellings, education loan, transistor, school dress and employment for the Mahadalits but this section is now seething with rage. Having stood by Nitish like a rock, this marginalised segment holds the JD (U) strongman responsible for Manjhi’s ouster,” he adds. 

This downtrodden lot, which traditionally had been the core vote-bank of the Congress, shifted their allegiance towards the JD(U) strongman a decade back and helped him reap a rich political harvest in 2005 and 2010 polls. Nitish too wooed this section unabashedly as historically, the dalits had been a major beneficiary of the government’s welfare schemes, but Mahadalits, the poorest among dalits, had remained deprived and marginalised. 

Manjhi represents this underprivileged section. Hailing from the Mushar community (poorest among Mahadalits and which eats rats), Manjhi, a soft-spoken, non-controversial  whom Nitish thought is pliable and could serve as the de jure CM till as long as he (Nitish) was on self-imposed exile.

But the leader of the 16 per cent marginalised section, Manjhi thought he could emerge as the next champion of the downtrodden. Nitish smelt rat and gave his protégé the boot, though fully aware that it could damage him politically in the ensuing elections.

Now, only the Assembly poll result will throw light whether Manjhi has been able to scuttle JD(U) prospects or he is just another paper tiger. 

The Hindu

 It was Lavanam who uprooted Jogini system in Nizamabad

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/it-was-lavanam-who-uprooted-jogini-system-in-nizamabad/article7546118.ece?ref=tpnews

RAM MOHAN

Leader of the international atheist movement and freedom fighter Goparaju Lavanam, who passed away in Vijayawada on Friday, had left an indelible mark on the district by successfully uprooting the Jogini women system, a stigma on the society continued for time immemorial.

He filled light in the lives of joginis and had been a beacon of hope to the destitute families of Bodhan, Kotagiri, Varni, Beerkur and Renjal mandals for a long time. Learning about the Jogini system in several villages of those mandals, he launched Samskar, a social service organisation, at Varni in 1986. The then Governor Kumud Ben Joshi inaugurated the organisation at Kotaiah Camp. With the help of Plan, a Sweden-based international donor organisation, he also set up a centre named as Chelli Nilayam to fight against the stigma and also for the reform and rights of Jogini women and their children. Ever since, he did not look back and spearheaded the social movement for 20 long years until the Jogini system was completely eradicated from villages. When the children of Jogini women had no right to claim their father’s name it was Lavanam and his wife Hemalatha who established a separate school for them. Prevailing upon the government, they achieved the right for Jogini women to register their names as parents in the place of fathers. The couple which rendered yeoman selfless service to the Jogini women performed marriages to 50 women at the Raj Bhavan in the presence of the then Governor C. Rangarajan.

The women thus settled in their lives breaking the age old retrograde tradition now rose as gram panchayat presidents, MPTC and ZPTC members. Their children pursued higher studies and occupied good positions. The women, who were once diffident about standing in front of the so called ‘civilised society’ now became part of it, thanks only to Lavanam-Hemalatha couple.

To ensure healthcare to villagers, they also opened a nature cure hospital at Akbarnagar near the Kotaiah Camp. At present, the hospital is being run by Manthena Satyanarayana Raju. The great couple provided employment to many local youths at their camp. The camp stood a centre of attraction with several dignitaries, researchers, reformers and foreigners across the globe coming to it frequently as it had made efforts parallel to the government in bringing about development in the villages.

Jana Vignana Vedika national president P. Ram Mohan Rao described Lavanam as a great humanist. The couple had made a strenuous effort to uproot the Jogini women system and their services are memorable forever. People paid homage to Lavanam saying that he was a great and honest man who made several sacrifices for social causes.

The Hindu

 Voice of Transgender in Bengaluru

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/battle-for-bengaluru-transgender-begins-campaigning-in-bengaluru/article7544584.ece

STAFF REPORTER

For 30 years, Gayatri (40) depended on begging to sustain herself. Now, the confident young lady wants to put this behind her and bring a change, not just for herself but for her entire community.

Gayatri is a transgender from Mandya district. Contesting from ward number 133 (Hampi Nagar), she is making her debut in electoral politics to ensure that members of her community have a voice in the council. “We face discrimination in every walk of life. Besides a change in mindset, we also need the support of the government to a large extent,” she said.

She says that when the Republican Party of India decided to field her as a candidate, it was an offer she could not resist. “There is no point in grumbling about the system, the drainage and garbage problems. We need to get into the system and work. I have always wanted to serve people and this is a great opportunity to do so.”

trans_2512423f

Gayatri has started door-to-door campaigning in full swing along with party supporters as well as members from her community. The resident of R.P.C. Layout says that people of her ward are yearning for change.

The Hindu

 Common men, uncommon heroes

http://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/baradwaj-rangan-on-the-rise-of-unknown-protagonist-in-cinema-common-men-uncommon-heroes/article7544532.ece

BARADWAJ RANGAN

 With Manjhi – The Mountain Man releasing this week, Baradwaj Rangan traces the rise of the unknown protagonist in popular cinema. From Paan Singh Tomar to Manjunath to Mary Kom, we are beginning to celebrate the common men and women who script the real-life proud-to-be-Indian stories

It all began in 1959, when a landless Bihari from the Musahar community, a Scheduled Caste that traditionally made a living as rat catchers, decided to make a road through the Gahlor Ghati hills, to ease passage between the surrounding localities. His name was Dashrath Manjhi, and with a chisel, a hammer and a shovel, he began to chip away singlehandedly at the hill. Twenty-two years later, he had cleared a pathway 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. Manjhi’s story was the basis of a subplot in the 2011 Kannada movie Olave Mandara . But he gets his own, full-length feature film next Friday, when Ketan Mehta’s Manjhi – The Mountain Man releases nationwide.

Yet another biopic, you might shrug, and you’d be right in a way. We have a tradition of ‘based-on-the-life-of’ movies that goes back to the 1936 Marathi drama Sant Tukaram, perhaps even earlier, to our first full-length feature, Raja Harischandra, if you believe the truth-telling monarch did walk this earth. The success of these films gave rise to a blueprint on which most of the biopics that followed were built: big emotions, big sets, big dialogues, big people. As sociologist Shiv Visvanathan says, “In the Nehruvian era, everything was epic. Everyone was a hoarding.” And for a long time, the Indian biopic was synonymous with people of a certain stature, people who would be found on hoardings. Jhansi Ki Rani. Veerapandiya Kattabomman. Alluri Seetarama Raju. Adi Shankaracharya. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. The Making of the Mahatma. Bose: The Forgotten Hero. Periyar. Sardar. The Legend of Bhagat Singh. In other words, screenplay writers dived into history textbooks for inspiration.

Hawaizaada_2511861a

Today, though, they seem to be scanning the newspapers – for uncommon stories about common men. “Things began to change around the Emergency,” Mr. Visvanathan says, “but it’s really after globalisation that we’re seeing a real change. It’s a paradox. The scale of life became so planetary that to understand it we had to go to the level of a village. And for the first time, we are not focusing on heroes but ordinary men. The focus is on the micro-event, a simple man against the odds.” Like Dashrath Manjhi.

dashrath manjhi

Manjhi isn’t our first common man on screen. Almost 70 years earlier, there was Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis, whose life was immortalised in V. Shantaram’s Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani. The film, set during World War II, was based on screenwriter and journalist K.A. Abbas’s book And One Did Not Come Back about an idealistic physician from Maharashtra who forsook a flourishing career at home to go to China as part of a medical mission. Then, in 1967, we had the eponymous protagonist of Sunil Banerjee’s Bengali drama Anthony Firingee. He was a Portuguese-Indian poet in the early 19th century who sang songs that went (at least as shown in the film) ‘I am the night, you are the moon…’ He married an Indian courtesan named Shakila, became interested in Hindu/ Bengali culture, and composed a number of songs in praise of Kali and Durga.

Dr. Kotnis and Anthony Firingee weren’t famous or celebrated, like the heroic subjects of earlier biopics; like, say, the legendary Veerapandiya Kattabomman, the bicentennial of whose hanging by the British was commemorated in 1999 with a postage stamp bearing his image. His name was in the papers as recently as this June, when a memorial costing Rs. 1.2 crore was inaugurated in Tuticorin. In comparison, Dr. Kotnis and Anthony Firingee were largely unknown to average people, and they live on mainly through the movies. Yet, there’s still an element of the hoarding in them. Dr. Kotnis’s story plays out on the national, even international stage. On his deathbed in China, he’s possessed by thoughts of his nation. He mutters to his Chinese wife, Hum Hindustan jayenge. (“We will return to India.”) He describes to her the tall mountains of his home, the sparkling rivers, the green fields, the small villages — by the end, he’s become an ambassador for India, his face superimposed on documentary footage from a political rally presided over by Nehru. As for Anthony Firingee, his story could be read as a kind of valorisation of our culture, seen as capable of attracting “foreigners” to its fold. Appropriately enough, the film opens with an image of a church, which dissolves into that of a temple.

With Dashrath Manjhi, there’s not a speck of anything larger than life. It’s just a great story, a great Indian story. As is Shahid, the story of a college kid who is thrown into jail after the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, studies to become a lawyer, and sets up a small practice to help people who were plucked off the streets and locked up simply because – as he puts it – their names happened to be Zahir or Faheem.Manjunath is the story of an incorruptible oil corporation employee, a 27-year-old Tamilian from Karnataka who ended up with six bullets in his chest in a nondescript village in Uttar Pradesh. Paan Singh Tomar tells of a soldier who becomes a sportsman en route to becoming a dacoit. Rang Rasiyaand Makaramanju are Hindi and Malayalam versions of Raja Ravi Varma’s life and were released barely three years apart.

This year saw the release of Hawaizaada, the story of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade who invented a “flying machine” in 1895, eight years before the Wright brothers wrote themselves into history at Kitty Hawk.Hawaizaada crash-landed at the box office, but what’s important is that it got made in the first place. Even a decade ago, these stories might never have made it to the big screen.

Paan_TOmar_2511857f

Actually, it would have been difficult to make these movies in the pre-multiplex era, where large-capacity single screens demanded films which large numbers of audiences would watch. In that era, even if the rare “common man” biopic was released, it wouldn’t play for very long. Small movies about small people had to wait for the smaller multiplex screens. In 1977, Bhumika, Shyam Benegal’s biopic based on the life of Marathi actress Hansa Wadkar, was seen as an art-house release. Today, The Dirty Picture(based on ‘Silk’ Smitha) is a mainstream blockbuster.

Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director of Paan Singh Tomar, has announced a biopic about Begum Samru, an 18th century nautch girl who went on to become the ruler of Sardhana province near Meerut. Satish Pradhan’s Abhinetri, a Kannada drama based on the life of the actress Kalpana, was released early this year. Then there’s Ram Madhvani’s Neerja Bhanot, based on the story of the senior flight purser for Pan Am who was shot dead by terrorists who hijacked the Mumbai-New York flight at Karachi on September 5, 1986.

It’s not just the multiplex factor, says filmmaker Rajiv Menon. “I think it’s also the impact of television. Earlier, in the newspaper era, only an educated few read the news. So a hero, to most people, meant a mythical hero who would fight an even more larger-than-life villain. Now, with television, the news continuously projects the common man. It’s a visual medium, and it shows things in a dramatic way, like a thrilling story. So there’s a more democratic view, now, of who a ‘hero’ is. He’s not just someone who topples empires. There’s a hero in every human being.”

Sometimes, a villain too. The most famous “anti-hero” biopic is Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, based on the life of the dacoit Phoolan Devi. In the soon-to-be-released Main Aur Charles, Randeep Hooda plays a character inspired by the serial killer Charles Sobhraj. And Vana Yuddham, a 2013 Tamil thriller, was based on the life of the bandit Veerappan. The events surrounding the release of Vana Yuddham illustrate some new problems that can come up when making biopics. Veerappan’s widow appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming that the film misrepresented her husband. She also argued that her permission should have been obtained before shooting began. The film could be released only after she was awarded a settlement of Rs. 25 lakh.

It is also the reason many biopics are satisfied to make veiled references to the characters they are based on, notably Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar (based on the MGR-Karunanidhi relationship) and Guru (based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani). Guru, riding on the optimism of the “India Shining” slogan coined three years before its release in 2007, was a big success. As Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema, SOAS, University of London, says, “Biopics have changed over the last decade or so from portraying religious figures and freedom fighters. Today, they are about the heroes of the new middle classes, men like Dhirubhai Ambani.”

Guru, a classic rags-to-riches story, is the most popular kind of biopic because it makes viewers feel good about themselves; it’s a classic ‘feel-good’ film. Recent instances include Marathi filmHarishchandrachi Factory (2009), which chronicled the struggles of Dadasaheb Phalke, “the father of Indian cinema,” as he worked to make the country’s first feature film. Malayalam drama Celluloid(2013) depicts the life of J.C. Daniel, who made the first Malayalam feature film, Vigathakumaran.

These are the genuine common-man stories that fit squarely into the “proud to be Indian” narrative that makes us claim Sundar Pichai, whose accomplishments are all outside the country, as one of our own.

Manjhi is just such a narrative. Ketan Mehta told The Hindu, “One man against a mountain for 22 years… such an incredible story…. When I went and saw the location — the rocky mountain and the path that he had carved out, I couldn’t believe that somebody could even think of doing such a thing. I was awestruck. And I realised he didn’t seek anything in return. The path was being made so that nobody else would suffer his pain… It was such an inspiring story that it had to be made into a film. Because film is the most powerful medium. And what does India need at this point of time? The Indian youth is looking for positive icons. Positive energy. It is looking for inspiration. It is looking for an attitude that says ‘never say die’.”

 A sub-genre in the biopic category is the real-life sports drama, which was practically non-existent, save for rare instances like the 1991 Telugu film Ashwini, based on (and starring) athlete Ashwini Nachappa. But in the last decade, we have had Chak De! India, based on the women’s field hockey team that won Gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games (and on hockey player Mir Ranjan Negi). We’ve also had Mary KomBhaag Milkha Bhaag, and now under production is M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story. You may have heard about the man.

Rachel Dwyer says, “The rise of the sports hero and the hitherto unknown person is part of the more realistic, middlebrow cinema that is evolving at the moment – with films like Lootera, Bombay Talkies, and others. The biopic is popular within this cinema as it is the classic middlebrow genre – aspirational, often educational, but not too challenging. The kind of cinema that wins Oscars.”

Or at the very least, box-office battles. Anurag Basu is reportedly developing a biopic based on Kishore Kumar, starring Ranbir Kapoor. There’s one evolving on Dara Singh. Son of the soil. Wrestler. Questionable actor. Rajya Sabha member. The biopic practically writes itself.

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET

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