Art As A Result Of Absolute Need: Why You Must Watch Jyoti Nisha's 'BR Ambedkar: Now And Then’ - Homegrown

Art As A Result Of Absolute Need: Why You Must Watch Jyoti Nisha's 'BR Ambedkar: Now And Then’

When we lost Rohith Vemula in 2016, something arose in the hearts and minds of this country. The long-standing wall of casteism in India seemed to be noticed for the very first time in a long time. It took the loss of someone’s life for an entire country to gain perspective. For filmmaker Jyoti Nisha, this event set in stone that her art needs to put out glimpses of the existence of the caste system ad how deeply rooted it is even in today’s society.

For years, art has been considered a form of resistance, rebellion even. And film, as a vehicle for this art, has an unimaginable degree of potential. Considering this aspect of movie-making, Jyoti Nisha travelled across eight states to bring to light just how systemic the problem of casteism is, and how BR Ambedkar and his values can do so much to better the situation.

Casteism is not restricted to biased behaviour in terms of seating arrangements in religious infrastructures or limited within the bounds of India’s many villages. It exists and prevails in our country’s administrative framework and its various elements. With a progressive view held by her Ambedkarite family, Jyoti was quick to catch onto this. Her regard for the Ambedkar rationale is exuberant through her feature-length documentary, BR Ambedkar: Now and Then (BRANT). Driven by a solid ‘Annihilation of Caste’ ideology, the documentary attempts to use film as a rightful method of representation. If one has representation, one can bring about conversations, and conversations hold the power of change.

Placing Ambedkar’s insights on casteism decades ago and India’s contemporary issues surrounding caste under the same lens, BRANT exploits the medium of film to highlight the similarities more than the differences. Bereft of what mainstream Indian films hold, this film uses art in an almost piercing way where the realities that should already be out there are emphasised upon. In an attempt to fix the societal fracture of the sheer existence of the caste system, the film medium seems to have offered more than a platform. It offered a voice and an opportunity to be present.

And that’s the thing about art — it may not always need words to communicate, or even to prove a point. Documentaries such as BRANT are proof that art provides us what we need, not always what we want.

Providing the viewers with deeper insight, Jyoti has also worked on the documentary through a feminist lens. BR Ambedkar always held views of equality across all spheres, including gender. He facilitated the recognition of inter-caste marriage, the right to divorce, and also the right to inheritance. A woman’s perspective, gaze and motivation are all evident, and rightly so, considering it was a woman who stood in the position of a writer, producer and director. It is most definitely narrated from a Bahujan-Feminist perspective which is not something many people thought even exists, but it does, and it’s here to prove a thing or two.

‘BR Ambedkar: Now And Then’ was not made to gain popularity or to earn a name in the game. Rather, it was born out of absolute need — the need for people to witness a broken national and societal hierarchy that dictates much of many people’s lives. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s values are printed on banners and screamed at rallies in hopes that we won’t have to anymore, and Jyoti’s documentary is a testament of just that. Doing such things and sparking such movements may not bring back the Rohith Vemulas of India, but it definitely may prevent us from losing more of them.

Documentaries such as Jyoti’s only place a mirror in front of us and allow us to reflect on what we see. What we do from thereon falls entirely on us.

We can be thankful for Jyoti using art, her expertise and her experience in forming our thoughts but chances are, she would appreciate our efforts to pull ourselves away from the scot-free image of India more.

Watch a short snippet here:

If you enjoyed this article, we suggest you read:

Dalit History Month:An Indian Artist Captures Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Life Through His Art

An Art Zine Celebrates The Legacy Of India’s Lesser-Known Caste Heroes

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