Interview Malayalam

KIFF 2017: Why is Dalits becoming priests news? It must be the norm, says Shanavas Naranipuzha


The director of Malayalam film Karie (Black), which is being screened at the inaugural Kazhcha Indie Film Fest, speaks about his reasons for making the feature, its impact, and the caste system.

Photo: Kazhcha Film Forum

Manigandan KR

To the untrained eye, director Shanavas Naranipuzha might come across as any other youngster with a simple smile and big dreams in his eyes. But talk to him for a few minutes or, better still, watch his film Karie and you will know that here is a man whose thoughts are deep and whose actions are decisive.

Shanavas never minces words, be it in his film or in his replies to questions.

The first thing that strikes you about Karie (Black) is that it puts across the message that the caste system and its prejudices are ingrained in every part of society and in every manner possible.

Ask the director what led to the making of this bold film, and he tells Cinestaan.com, "One day I was driving when a man stopped me and asked for a lift. I was listening to Carnatic music when he got in. As we proceeded, he asked my name. I knew what he was looking to find out. So I simply said Unni as that is a name commonly used across communities.

"He was dissatisfied and wanted to know my father's name. I told him the truth and he was surprised that I was listening to Carnatic music. Here, there are people who need to know the caste first. Next, comes the colour of one's skin. Fair skin is associated with upper castes and dark-skinned people are perceived to be from the lower castes.

"The caste system here is deep-rooted even today. There are a lot of temples around my home and I have been witnessing this from the time I was a child. The upper castes have elaborate functions and rituals, some of which have to be performed by those from the lower castes. However, those from the lower castes cannot enter the temples of the upper castes."

In Karie, Shanavas showcases a Karinkali ritual that is performed by a member of the lower castes. "During the ritual, the person performing it is considered to be god and, therefore, everybody, including those from the upper castes, bow their heads in reverence. But that is only for the time period that the ritual is on. After that, they again look down on the very same person," he explains.

At this point, draw his attention to the fact that recently in Kerala, the Travancore Devasom Board recruited 36 non-Brahmins, including six Dalits, as priests and he says, "I am very happy about it. But why is that news today? It is because it is something unusual. It must become the norm."

Karie is such a powerful social satire that it was chosen as the opening film at the Kazhcha Indie Film Festival.

"I am not worried about the film being denied its due in some places," says Shanavas. "In fact, it has been over four years since the film was released, but it is still a talking point. Several films that were released after this have been forgotten."

The filmmaker also reveals that he is making a 'commercial' film next. "I am planning to begin shooting in January. But it is too early to disclose other details." 

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Kazhcha Indie Film Festival