Reflecting of 'Karnan'; Countering Pretence
Reported By 06 May 2021
I would like to juxtapose Karnan's plot with two incidents that have left me sleepless and have kept my thinking, hover over some grave Realities of life in India today. Mari Selvaraj has tried his best to be lowly, radical and critical. The movie starts with a gruesome, melancholic and morbid experience of a young girl who is lying in the middle of the road with seizures, while the vehicles pass by without taking any care for the abandoned soul. The movie assumes her death as a catalyst that entrench transformative mythical powers. Her progressive haunting presence is something that kept driving the spirit of the movie to another dimension of life with which my religious spirituality associates. Her presence embed deep capacities to incite inspirations to a community that has sustained slaughter marks as aspects that challenge demonic powers, like the morbid Caste system.
My religious spirituality thrives on remembrance, Christ promised the disciples of his presence till the end of times (I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20). Octavio Paz, in his incredible work, The labyrinth of solitude accords the assertion of the Mexicans in the context of North American pretence as; 'We get drunk to confess; they get drunk to forget.' As much as we drink in the Christian Sacramental sense, we drink to remember, so does Paz, when he said; We Confess. It is the girl's spirit that drives the hope of redemption, the acute misery of the victim.
Remembrance is all about memories. Particularly the Dalit memories are all about massacres and continuous killings and grave violence against them for thousands of years. The headless deity, later the headless painting on the colony’s wall are suggestive of such memories that drive oppressed communities. So, it is a natural tendency to draw parallels to gruesome pasts, so did many who thought and still think Karnan embeds the Kodiankulam and Manjolai massacres. However, as a Tamil Christian Dalit, I could also think of an episode in Bangalore in the early 90s, where the Tamils in the city were brutalized by the dominant linguists of the state and supported by the police. In Bangalore tamil language is also associated with lower caste groups. In my memory that’s how I have been referred to, as kongga and katpadi both acutely derogative.
I could also think of the police brutality in the recent past at Sathankulam. Police brutality coupled with caste connotations overarch and pulsate the movie. To further the conversation on memories, I would like to bring in two recent experiences of Dalits which I think will lead to a larger question on the Dalit life affected by the never-ending caste atrocities in the country.
Recently a Dalit family was forced to take away the almost buried body of their four-month-old infant in the Koratagere taluk of Karnataka's Tumkur district, by the security guards of the acclaimed landowners.
It was noted that the baby died of serious respiratory illness. It was also noted that the family worked for a quarry and were landless and they were unaware of any land nearby excluded for the Dalits to bury their dead. Their vulnerable state of being, thrust them to bury the baby's body near their settlement. The drama continued as the family hopelessly loitered around with the corpse of their baby until they found a place for the dead one in this falsely freedom assumed state.