CasteWatchUK and Amitabh Bachchan on BBC Asian Network

Many of you may have heard about a new Hindi film called Aarakshan, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Manoj Bajpai. Directed by Prakah Jha, the film is a socio-political drama based on the controversial policies of caste based reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.

Listen to CasteWatchUK and Amitabh Bachchan talk about the film and the issues it raises in this interview on BBC Asian Network:

Here is Reena Jaisiah’s review of the film:

“Last night I went to see Aarakshan. Bear in mind I am not a huge Bollywood follower so watching this film was a painful experience. I am pleasantly surprised at the Bollywood industry on tackling this issue though it was masqueraded by operatic emotive overtones and an assault to the ear drums with songs. This film successfully highlighted the socio-political struggles of India’s caste system with central focus on India’s Reservation system in education. It does indeed support the reservation system in India as there is too much disparity if there was not such a system in place. The cinema was virtually empty but it is the month of Ramadan and the other variable is that the Asian are not interested in facing issues like this and would rather see the superficial farce of glitz and glamour in Bollywood films – one of the main reasons why I avoid these kind of films as I go behind this you see,  

To keep it concise the film portrays the struggle of a college Principle’s (Amitabh Bachan)  passion for teaching children from the schedules castes subtitled ‘Backwards caste’ in the movie! The Principle is politically pushed out. Tensions in the college break out between students of the SC whom stand to gain entry into colleges because of the quota system and the higher castes who now have to contend with the reservation policy in spite of otherwise being comparatively more merit-worthy. The film did depict the counter effects of the reservations systems which supports the view that the ‘higher castes’ fall victim to discrimination. It also highlighted India’s dark realty higher caste tyranny. There was some powerful language and eloquent messages in the dialogue which was elating but not thought salubrious.  The most poignant scene in this movie was the opening scene of a job applicant (Saif Ali Khan) being ridiculed by questions into his mother background completely evading questions into the applicants skills. I do believe also a reference was made (the only reference in the entire movie) to Ambedkar though his name had no mention! However there were many scenes that had images of Ghandi of course.  The film shows the bitter journey of how obstacles come in the way of the Dalit community/ SC in their educational and career pursuits and how Indian society throws a wall in front of them and they fight. I am glad this issue was highlighted.  There was also a soppy love plot where caste conspires against love.  The film closed with a predictable happy gooey ending with no room for thought.  Go and see for yourself if only to support the message.”

UK Riots

The raging riots of last week have brought shame, disgust and a cauldron of bitterness to the streets of Britain. Morale has been at its lowest for years, and communities and lives have been destroyed by riots. However, a positive has come out of this. The PM, David Cameron, said the riots have brought out “some of the best of Britain’.  We couldn’t agree more when pictures of the British Asian community illuminate and exemplify such graciousness in much needed times.
The Sikh community in Southall took a peaceful stance in protecting their Gurdwara and their local community irrespective of race and religion. Their message was simple equality!
The Malaysian student being insidiously helped during his attack but robbed in the process wants to stay in the UK and feels no hatred for his attackers.  Again another example of Asian diligence!
What about the Islamic community and Sikh community united in the heart of the trouble? This has bought communities closer and inspired people around the UK to do the same.
This is time to restore and celebrate our heritage and the good that we contribute to our country and continue to set a great example and inspire others to do the same. It is evident that British Asians are an important part of this country and want to integrate.
A special tribute to the three young men, whom we refer to as true soldiers, who were brutally killed in a hit-and-run while protecting their country. Haroon Jahan, 21 and brothers Shezad Ali, 30 and Abdul Musavir 31. What amazes us is the dignity of Tariq Jahan, Haroon’s father, whom whilst going through so much grief and pain speaks words of peace ann pacification. Instead of being belligerent, his no name and blame manner is just dividend and testament to the beliefs of a true Muslim.

WOMEN on Top! Mirror Madness!



Following the success of our production of ‘Midnight Bluebells Ring Out Loudly’ during International Women’s Week, Kairos WWT and Caste Away Arts’s collaborative project – Women on Top have done it again!

‘Mirror Madness’ was performed on Friday 29th July, 2011 to a packed and lively audience. This absurd piece was devised by Women on TOP inspired by the women’s own inanimate objects being sprung to life in writing workshops led by writing workshop leader Jen Bakewell! Mirror Madness is a fantasy tale of bitter revenge and unrequited love! There are a few bad songs (actually they were fab), magic spells, twins who are poles apart, a bird and filthy mirror. Does this make any sense? Well it’s not supposed to its theatre of the absurd!

This show was so uplifting and inspiring despite having just under a week to get it all together. A huge well-done to everyone involved, the cast, the volunteers and project workers!  A reaped performance is on the cards and more exciting project that celebrates the voices of women in theatre. A massive thank you to Kairos WWT who have accommodated and produced this project and allowed it to flourish to the success it has become. This is what you get when women unite and work together.  WOMEN ON TOP!

Reena Jaisiah