Dalits alone should depict the Dalit experience to avoid misrepresentation in media, says ‘Chaityabhumi’ filmmaker 


Dalits alone should depict the Dalit experience to avoid misrepresentation in media, says ‘Chaityabhumi’ filmmaker 

~ Documentary filmmaker and researcher Somnath Waghmare’s film ‘Chaityabhumi’ showcases the importance of Dr B. R. Ambedkar’s resting place as a place for knowledge transfer.

~ Western aesthetics do not accurately represent the Dalit experience, instead victimise the community, according to Waghmare.


Panaji, May 2024: The experiences and lives of Dalits in India should be represented in the mass media by those from the community to avoid misrepresentation and further marginalisation, said filmmaker Somnath Waghmare, director of the docu-film, ‘Chaityabhumi’, released in 2023.


Waghmare made this statement during the screening of his film at the recently held MOG Sundays talk at the Museum of Goa, Pilerne.


Waghmare is a Dalit-Buddhist documentary filmmaker and researcher based in Maharashtra, whose films collectively shed light on the histories and cultural politics of marginalised communities in the country. His previous film ‘The Battle of Bhima Koregaon: An Unending Journey’ (2017) received critical acclaim in India and abroad.


He has also directed the film ‘I Am Not a Witch’ (2015) and is in the process of editing a biographical project on human rights activists Gail Omvedt and Bharat Patankar titled ‘Gail and Bharat’.


“The film ‘Chaityabhumi’ is an unfiltered showcase of the significance of the Chaityabhumi monument as not just a reminder that the struggle for achieving social equality is still very much ongoing, but also of the promotion of the importance of knowledge and education through the book stalls set up around the site,” said Waghmare. The monument was erected at Dadar in Mumbai, where Ambedkar was cremated in 1956.


Waghmare added that his musical documentary aims to subvert Western tropes and aesthetics that, he claims, are forced onto mainstream depictions of the Dalit community. He avoids the utilisation of voice-overs to eliminate an external narrative as well as only uses the sound recorded while filming to drive the narrative forward.


‘Chaityabhumi’ showcases the journey made by thousands of people from the Dalit and Buddhist communities to the eponymous resting place of Dr B. R. Ambedkar in Dadar in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Late Indian politician and social reformer, Dr Ambedkar, is celebrated globally for fighting for the rights of marginalised communities and eliminating the caste system in India.


This annual journey of paying respects and homage to Dr Ambedkar’s legacy takes place on December 6, his death anniversary.


Waghmare stated that only certain aspects of the Dalit experience that victimise the community by only depicting them as manual scavengers and not in other occupation roles, are showcased in mainstream media, suggesting that the Dalit community’s ‘silent revolution’ of achieving equality in society by upliftment through education is not reflected enough.

“Over a hundred thousand books on philosophy, autobiographies, biographies and other non-fiction copies are purchased by attendees at every Chaityabhumi — to me, this is one of the largest literature festivals in India,” he said.

Waghmare concluded with the opinion that the ‘silent revolution’ of the marginalised communities needs more accurate representation carried out by community members in the media to showcase their true mettle and potential.

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