Odd caste for film that honours the Bollywood mould
Amrit Dhillon, Delhi
August 13, 2011
Khap features well-known actor Om Puri.
Bollywood doesn't do social evils. It doesn't do serious issues. The
film industry shies clear of tackling such subjects for fear the
audience might find them too ''heavy''.
Where would you insert the compulsory song-and-dance routines -
couples dancing in sunflower fields or prancing around on mountain
tops - when the story is about female foeticide, dowry deaths or the
selling of young girls into prostitution?
None of these concerns has deterred director Ajai Sinha, whose new
film, Khap - Honour Killings, has just been released, to the fury of
conservatives who do not like traditional customs being questioned.
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This particular custom, widespread in north India, dictates that no
man or woman can marry if they belong to the same clan. If they dare
to do so, the village khap panchayat (caste council) wreaks swift and
The couple are often strung up from the nearest tree or beaten to
death, either by their parents or by the parents and a pack of
villagers, for ''dishonouring'' the community.
Khap features well-known actor Om Puri (below) as a panchayat head who
violently opposes intra-caste marriages. His son rebels against the
father and goes off to become a human rights activist.
Mumbai-based Sinha says he carried out extensive research into honour
killings and met members of khap panchayats and the relatives of men
and women who had been murdered.
''I wanted to shine a light on these crimes to ask audiences what era
are we living in? Is this the 15th century? My basic message is that
no matter what your beliefs about caste or marriage, you do not have
the authority to kill anyone,'' he said.
In this dark subject, Sinha, loyal to Bollywood traditions, manages to
insert not one but six song-and-dance routines, most of which pop up
at bizarre moments.
In Haryana, khap panchayat leaders have denounced the film for
portraying them as ''cruel fanatics'' and threatened to boycott it.
Some were livid at being portrayed as violent. Yet one of the
characters in the film articulates their point of view and speaks in
favour of honour killings. ''I wanted to give their side … to show
that this idea of not marrying within the same caste was originally
not a bad idea,'' said Sinha.
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