Hurdang, which released recently on Netflix, is an insignificant Bollywood project that perpetuates the anti-reservation mindset and hatred against the caste-based reservation system in India.
In the film, the protagonist Daddu Thakur (Sunny Kaushal) is a student leader at Allahabad University who works under his political master Loha Singh (Vijay Varma). The most ridiculous thing about the protagonist is that he wants to be an IAS officer but does not even know what Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) stands for.
Hurdang is set in the 1990s when the Mandal Commission was about to come into existence and the upper-caste students began a series of agitations in retaliation. The film starts with a quote of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, “It is education which is the right weapon to cut the social slavery and it is education which will enlighten the downtrodden masses to come up and gain social status, economic betterment and political freedom”. While watching the film, viewers will realise that the philosophy behind this quote was lost on the filmmakers.
This film is yet another offering part of a new trend by mainstream Bollywood cinema where history is being constantly misinterpreted in a bid to perpetuate a Brahmanical mindset in society. The entire story of Hurdang emerges exclusively from everyday Brahmanical narratives of anti-reservation. This kind of film can have a deep impact on the youth, as it nudges a solidification of anger against the caste-based reservation system.
The portrayal of such anti-reservation narratives is not new in Hindi cinema. In the past, the Prakash Jha-directed Aarakshan was a moderate attempt to creating a legacy of making anti-reservation movies but Hurdang takes it a step further.
From beginning to end, Hurdang revolves around an argument which claims ‘caste-based reservation is bad’ and ‘economic-based reservation is good’. This is the most popular myth associated with the reservation system.
If we review Hurdang theoretically and empirically, we’ll find it has no connection with social realities of the caste system. It also shows the degree of manipulation and misinterpretation of the caste-based reservation system. The Economic and Political Weekly published an article titled ‘Busted: Four Myths on Caste-Based Reservation Policies’ which addresses four kinds of myths:
i) “So many rich people are benefiting from reservation just because of their caste.”
ii) “Look at India. Reservation has clearly not helped the poor.”
iii) “Unmeritorious people are getting promoted. India will never become a developed country like this.”
iv) “Untouchability and casteism are things of the past. We will never progress if we keep talking about caste.”
And Hurdang has attempted in every possible way to turn these all myths into realities.
Contemporary Hindi cinema is going through a period of intellectual deprivation and it manifests every Friday when movies like Aarakshan, Article 15 and Hurdang are released in theatres. Such cinema is the mere production of ideologically-driven narratives and communal-casteist content.
In comparison to cinema from the South, which has a strong legacy of presenting social realities without any manipulation and misinterpretation, Hindi cinema is nothing more than a propaganda tool of the state and society. Films like Karnan, Jai Bhim, Asuran and many more stand for social justice and an egalitarian society. But contemporary Bollywood still represents the neo-Brahmanical art system which firmly believes that the caste system no longer exists in India.
Vidyasagar Sharma is a PhD Scholar at the University of Delhi and currently an Urban Fellow at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements.