Draupathi Movie Review 7 Points To Understand The Dangerous Politics Of A Regressive Film One Can Call ‘Caste-Porn’
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Director: Mohan G

Cast: Richard Rishi, Sheela Rajkumar

How love is caste-compliant

The only instance in the film when the concept of ‘love’ is accepted is when it is between people of the same caste, that too conforming to specific relationships, such as ‘mama ponnu’. In every other case, the women are seen as irresponsible, while the men are painted as opportunists, always on the lookout to trap women from higher castes for their wealth. This is accompanied with the lower caste ‘villains’ mouthing expository lines like, “Oruthan mann mela kaala vekkanum-na, avan ponnu mela kaiya vekkanum.” 

Looking at crimes through the lens of caste

Given that the major topic the film addresses is the criminal nexus that works around ‘registered’ marriages, it is incapable of seeing it from a non-caste point of view. In its desperation to paint these marriages as a concept of pure evil, it leaves no room for nuance. So it doesn’t just stop with showing the forgery committed to conduct these marriages. It also goes several steps further to include scenes where the perpetrators commit graver crimes, including photographing the women naked, to the point where it is justified for the film’s dominant caste vigilante ‘hero’ to murder them. 

The ideal woman upholds patriarchy 

The titular character Draupathi is valorised for the way she upholds the ‘honour’ of her vamsam (lineage) or her community. Draupathi, too, conforms to a masculine/patriarchal idea of revenge as justice when she strips a man to punish him for blackmailing a woman from her caste. All this while her husband stands by, smiling proudly. Her sister Lakshmi, too, is held at a similar level of respect because she does not fall for the charms of a lower-caste man. But when the film shows women from her caste who do fall in love with outsiders, they are portrayed to be extremely gullible. In one scene, when the concerned ‘hero’ asks a lovestruck girl to choose between her father or her lover, she says, “I want both of them. But my dad is old and has only a few years left. So I prefer my lover.”    

How the enemy is always the other

The film doesn’t just stop at vilifying the lower castes. Brahmins and ‘Foreign’ Corporates are mercenary and collude with the lower castes for economic benefits. One of the characters, the Brahmin registrar responsible for facilitating these ‘forged’ marriages, is shown to be so blinded by corruption, he is ignorant of the after-affects of his actions. The corporates (‘cola company’) are just as evil, looking to plunder resources (land and water), to the point where Draupathi says even the use of sanitary napkins sold by such companies is a tool to control our women. This, even while the film continuously looks at its women as something interchangeable with property, not once stopping to show the disappointment of women who have been cheated.  

Draupadi Movie Review: 7 Points To Understand The Dangerous Politics Of A Regressive Film One Can Call “Caste-Porn”

The double standards in portraying violence   

In a scene where two lower caste men are shown to be attacking women from the dominant caste, the film doesn’t spare a second to sympathise with the plight of these women. Instead the camera is quick to shift the gaze to a low angle to show these men as deriving barbaric levels of satisfaction during the act. But when the film’s ‘hero’ commits his crimes, his face is covered using a red and yellow cloth (suggesting the colours of a caste-based political outfit) to a rousing background score, painting him as a vigilante who is doing this for the greater good of the community. 

The state as an ally of the enemy 

In an insignificant scene, Draupathi is shown walking around fields inspecting the work of the agricultural labourers working there. She’s secretly recording these workers lazing around, and says, “The 100-day programme has made these people lazy and that’s why we don’t get good labourers to work on our field,” a comment on the mobility MNREGA has given the landless. 

The film also repeatedly shows the law and the judiciary as an ally of the lower castes, requiring the dominant castes to find their own allies within these establishments to circumvent these “obstacles”. Both the police and the legal system too are said to be against the dominant caste, with the film’s protagonists trusting the local panchayat system more than the courts. Later, the policemen and lawyers quickly switch sides to support the vigilante ‘hero’, even promising continued support. Even terms such as ‘honour killing’ are used in the film as a tool courts use to target people from the dominant castes. 

An ‘us versus them’ battle 

Even in emotional scenes such as the one where Draupathi is said to be going through a complicated surgery, a character says, “Namma saami namma kaapaathuvaar.” So instead of saying God will save us, the character says, OUR God will save us. Anti-caste marriages are repeatedly said to be the biggest problem facing dominant castes, with no room negotiation. The aforementioned Brahmin registrar is said to have conducted 3,200 ‘forged’ marriages. But the film doesn’t even suggest the possibility of how the same system may have also supported real lovers from opposing castes. The film’s ultimate demand is for registered marriages to always be conducted under CCTV surveillance with the parents of the two lovers present, basically, another way of controlling land and women from going outside. 

(With inputs from Ashutosh Mohan)

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