Karthikeyan Damodaran, Visiting Fellow, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
In contrast to an established idiom of spatial representation of North Madras in Tamil films as a distinct urban ghetto –, portraying it as a masculine, homogenous, and utterly violent space, recent Tamil films of Ranjith have challenged those stereotypification. Through the genre of ‘Dalit Film’ a critical intervention was made possible in the representational politics of Tamil cinema where it contested and challenged common stereotypes. In an effort to move further and portray the intricacies of Dalit Subjectivity, the Tamil film Sarpatta Parambarai has crafted a period drama focusing on a sporting culture where in spatial and social subjectivities intersect. In an earlier joint paper we have spoken about the territorial stigmatization and destigmatisation efforts forming a contested narrative of filmic representations and ensuing politics, here I touch upon and expand my arguments to discuss about formations of the self. The boxing ring here functions as an arena for self-making efforts of Dalits (ex-Untouchables) in Madras (now Chennai) in South India. The centrality of such efforts for marginalized groups is significant given the fact that they create new forms of subjectivity to liberate themselves from the degraded position to which caste confined them. Such strategies of self-making are essential given that the everyday lives of Dalits, as stigmatized minorities in a highly hierarchical social order, continue to be shaped by caste (Desai and Dubey 2012). This paper attempts to explore how the film and its narrative showcases Dalit identity through layered texts and how it gets structured and intertwined with space, and it will unpack the intricate relationship between space and Dalit subjectivity through representations of a sporting culture.