Understanding Patriarchy through Characterization of Feminine Features in Films: A Semiotic Analysis of Sairat and Kabali


A. K. Divakar1*, Dr. V. Natarajan2

1Research Scholar, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication,

Periyar University, Salem, Tamil Nadu - 636011.

2Research Supervisor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication,

Periyar University, Salem, Tamil Nadu - 636011

*Corresponding Author Email: dak280@gmail.com



Caste has been an age-old problem in India and other Hindu countries. Caste has established itself through various rituals, food habits, isolation, patriarchy and many other ways. Controlling women, serves as one of keystone component of maintaining the caste system. This research article analyses two Dalit films to understand the component of women and portrayal of feministic characters in one Tamil film (Kabali) and one Marathi film (Sairat). These films have been chosen to understand the discourse of women and to discuss the portrayal and control of women in these films. Semiotic analysis is coupled with semantic and pragmatic analysis to understand the discourse of women. Sairat serves as a film, which portrays women in a comparatively different light from normal stereotypical patriarchal films. Whereas, Kabali despite being a Dalit film falls within the framework of normal Indian film, which offers very little space to women.  Dalit literature is the literature of the oppressed. Dalit films are a part of Dalit literature, so they shoulder strong responsibility in proposing counter narratives to stereotypical views of women oppression in the society. Once Dalit narratives are able to break this rigid framework, then they might be able to indirectly attack the evils of caste system, through women empowerment.


KEYWORDS: Woman oppression, Dalit literature, Portrayal of women, semiotic analysis of films, Caste and women.




Caste has been one of the most successful oppressive structures of the world, which has survived the test of time. Caste is not exclusive to India, but is widely associated with Hinduism, even though caste exists in other religion (concomitant with the spread of Hinduism), it is an undeniably a benchmark of the Hindu society. Some form of discrimination / division has existed in other early civilizations such as Egypt (through Land ownership), Sumerian, China, Japan, Roman, Israel, etc. but none has been as successful as the caste system of India. Though, nobody is able to trace the origin of caste accurately, several theories are proposed as to how the system of caste came into being. Through the text such as Rig Veda, we come across the earliest reference to the caste system, which speaks about the differences between Aryans and the Dasas (everybody other than Aryans). Through this we are able to trace that caste, though not fully structured and operational at that point, had started to gather momentum and prevailed in some form based on the texts circa 1500 -1200 BC. We are unaware of the earlier history but it is clear that is in existence for at least about three millennia.


How did such a primitive system be so effective, even in the modern age and is able to sustain itself? That, was because while other equivalents of caste slowly disintegrated with passage of time, caste continued to evolve dynamically with the support of religion, rituals and religious faiths, pulling others into its vortex, irrespective of their role in its survival. Food, rituals, ownership of land, worship, etc. remain as various markers of caste, but the foundation of caste lies rooted in the practice of endogamy. “Endogamy is the only character that is peculiar to caste”1. The institution of marriage involves both the sexes and in order to control the institution of marriage it was important to either control man or women. The patriarchal ideation found it easy to control women while the male’s word had more sway in the society. Practices of ‘Sati’ (burning a widow in a funeral pyre of her husband), girl marriage, compulsory widowhood, Devadasi system and numerous other systems constantly kept her in shackles, these practices were especially prevalent among upper caste women2. “The sati supported patriarchy by enforcing laws over body of women, thereby enabling the caste system”3.



The identity of caste is wrapped around the concept of the body of a women, it is able to establish itself only through controlling it. Her body is claimed through tying of Tali[mangal sutra, a string worn around the neck by married women, removed when husband dies], or wearing finger ring in toes (metti) or through other set of rituals. When she claims control over her body especially by refusing the superstitious rituals or by marrying whomever she wants irrespective of the caste, then the notion of caste stands challenged4.“The purity of women ensured the purity of caste and thus of the social order itself”3.The control of the oppressor (patriarchy) over the body of women was clear through rules such as male could marry a women from one caste below him, whereas a women should always be married within her caste or above but never below. Even if they were to collude with male of lower caste Manu and Arthasastra describe in minute detail, the ways to punish them in public, thereby instilling fear among others3, 5.


The economic situation of Dalit forces both men and women to engage in an occupation, in contrast to the high caste society where, women are controlled inside the house and bound to chores of house keeping. Some of the sociologists feel that that Dalit women’s situation is competitively better6. Contrary to these beliefs, it must be noted that Dalit women are transgressed at several levels. She is the lowest of the lower in the hierarchy of caste to feed to the patriarchal forces. This explains the rituals such as parading female member of Dalit community in nude in the open as punishment or violating her body (by upper caste or same caste men) as a form of punishment sometimes even killing her for getting involved with men of higher caste7.


Historically women were not always oppressed. The oppression of women and downfall of matriarchy coincides with the beginning of settlements and when man began to practise agriculture which eventually led to land ownership and state8. “Principle of caste informs the specific nature of sexual asymmetry in Hindu society; the boundaries and hierarchy of caste are articulated by gender”9.



·        To analyse overall semiotic elements in portrayal of lead women characters in subaltern Dalit films.

·        To analyse the construction of women’s dialogues to understand women’s discourse in the two Dalit films



The concept of semiotics was introduced and familiarised by Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce. The idea behind semiotics was to decode what certain signs meant on a larger canvas and how audience unconsciously interpret it. Semioticians initially started with language and later it was applied to other fileds of works. The semantic and pragmatic analyses were done over important dialogues, spoken by the lead female characters of both the film ‘Sairat’ and ‘Kabali’. Though the codes were initially propounded by Saussure, it attained its full potential later at the hands of Roman Jakobson10. In the present attempt, the study of social codes of Jakobson, such as verbal codes (dialogues), bodily codes (facial expression, gaze etc.), commodity codes (fashion, vehice, gadgets etc.) and behavioural codes (rituals, how a person behaves, etc.)11 were explored.


Analysis and Interpretation:

Plot of ‘Sairat’:

Parshya hails from a so-called lower caste and Archie is the daughter of a local political leader from an ostensible higher caste. He falls in love with her and slowly Archie also reciprocates. They get caught in the act of kissing, as a result of which, they are threatened to leave their village. Then Archie leaves her house with cash and jewels and convinces Parshya to elope with her. They get to a city, finally where they are left at peace. She is unable to adjust to the realities of the house. Slowly Parshya’s character begins to change ones he starts to eke out a living by helping at a food stall. Parshya begins to doubt her activities, once Archie gets a job. As a result of which she leaves the house and Parshya goes searching for her. He tries to contemplate a suicide, by hanging himself and is finally stopped by Archie. Later she gives birth to a child and calls her mom to inform her. As a result of the call, her relatives bring presents from their mom. They kill them and let them to die, in a pool of blood, leaving the child as the only survivor.


Dialogue Analysis and interpretation of ‘Sairat’:

Semantic 1:

Archie (A): I’ll look at you or do what I feel like.

Parshya (P): So will I, if you don’t like, don’t look.

A: I never said, I didn’t like. (Walks away)


Pragmatic 1:

Parshya had been ogling at Archie. Unlike a stereotypical submissive girl, Archie doesn’t stand as a mute witness but confronts him with confidence and authority. When he retorts saying that she shouldn’t look at him, she says she actually liked it. Instead of a stereotypical male proposing a girl, here the girl subtly proposes her liking toward him, in an unorthodox way. On a wider context, she even returns the gaze on him later, gives him a taste of his own medicine. Unable to bare the gaze he begs her to stop, but she doesn’t. Women empowerment and breakage of stereotypes are at peak in this film. They make the viewers realize the power of gaze and the disturbed feeling it creates when a person is objectified, let it be man or woman. He tries to bind her to chains of patriarchy as the society does to most women, but she defies his bonds of patriarchy and emerges stronger making him suffer the same harsh realities of patriarchy, which very few men understand in real life.


Semantic 2:

(Parshya gets beaten up by Mangaya)

A: Mangaya! Let him go. Do you understand Marathi or should I say in English? Let go. Mangaya come here. You so much as touch him, I’ll break your face.

Mangaya: Why do you care Archie?

A: Go ahead and touch him, I’ll show in English, why I care.


Pragmatic 2:

 Archie intervenes in the fight between Mangaya and Parshya and asks Mangaya to stop, when he doesn’t listen to her, just with the authoritative tone and aggressive attitude of her voice she asserts her dominance over him. Mangaya decides to take care of it later then she lets everyone in the whole crowd knows, how serious she is, though being a female, she declares that if he touches him she won’t hesitate to break his face. She subtly lets everyone know, that nobody should mess with Parshy. She shows her liking towards him by getting him out of the trouble and displays her love for him at the same time once again asserting that she doesn’t succumb to the forces of patriarchy. Mangaya is humongous figure and fights three people at the same time. Instead of displaying fear or submission, she demonstrates aggression towards him. Showing passion is a subtle display of feministic empowerment through dominance. In a typical patriarchal society such as India, only protagonists (males) are shown as saving women from trouble, breakage of patriarchy and stereotypes are depicted here.


Semantic 3:

(Archie visits Parshya’s house in a tractor)

A: Yes just dropped the trolley at bungalow. Ani and I are going straight to farm with tractor.

Mom: You drive the tractor like a man.

Archie: Yes, I drive bullet and tractor too. Now straight to farm from here?

A: All right then mom. I’m going to be there by myself.


Pragmatic 3:

Parshya hides inside the house with his friends, she introduces herself and gets acquainted with her to be mother-in-law. She subtly invites Parshya to her farm. Food and water (and vessels) still remains as one of the critical markers of caste discrimination standing over the history of several thousand years. Power is also symbolically represented here through the signs such as tractors and bullets. She casually asks for water from their house and drinks it in the vessel that is use by them. Even now in certain parts of India Dalits’ and other untouchables are not allowed to enter certain houses, or share a common vessel, with them. In certain backward/rural areas, if water is touched a by Dalit they are even deemed unfit for consumption. She breaks the belief of the discrimination, herself being from an ostensible upper class. Unlike the dominant discourse that says caste must be broken from bottom to the top, here they also exhibit that it can also be voluntarily broken from top-down, through true love and inter-caste marriages.


Semantic 4:

Parshya (P): I’ll work

A: I’ll cook

P: I’ll bring home wood for the kitchen

A: I’ll wait for you everyday at the door


Pragmatic 4:

Smitten by love, Archie goes out of her bold, anti-patriarchal stand and falls within the traps of patriarchy. She wants to be a regular / stereotypical housewife. Though she hails from a rich family, all she wants out of the love is, a small home by the riverside where she wants to cook food and take care of him, while he earns for the family by working. She wants to stand by the door and wait for her husband, while he returns from work, which is expected of typical women from an upper-caste household (This notion is being challenged now, by economy and modernity). The problem here is that, she doesn’t even know the basics of cooking, let alone undertaking household chores. In spite of being outside patriarchy, love softens her and unconsciously pushes her into its trap, while she will wait by the door for the arrival of her man. Until now, she has been her own hero; in fact she has saved him from all the hurdles that he had faced. She remains spellbound by his love for her and softens and slips into the chains of patriarchy. When she says, “you’re too much”, she does understand that its unreal, but still she chooses to believe the illusion of their love.


Semantic 5:

A: I took the day off for you. So we could watch that movie. What could I do if Sir was there?

P: You must have enjoyed. Squeezing in next to him in theatre.

A: He’s a good man

P: Of course he is.

A: Don’t swear you Jerk.

(He Slaps her)


Pragmatic 5:

In the initial days of their love, over a conversation in phone, both of them force each other to eat and refuse to eat before the other one eats. Here we observe how the discourse changes after marriage and is in complete contrast to the initial, even when he is asked to eat, he denies her food, because he doubts her integrity. The bold and courageous Archie, through the name of love is broken in such a way she is not able to stand up against the weakest force of Parshya. Though Archie has demonstrated that she is physically and mentally stronger than Parshya several times, here she is broken down because of his doubt over her integrity. In spite of facing several difficulties without a single drop of tear, she cries only because of the patriarchal doubt over her character. A person, who has stood outside the bounds of patriarchy, is suddenly dragged deep into it, and drowned through the hegemonic oppression it forces over women. He abuses her both physically and mentally, violating her space and modesty in a public sphere. When she realizes that Parshya’s love has faded, she shakes away the shadow of love and leaves Parshya. Metaphorically, the ever-oppressing hands of patriarchy hurt her and she is to blame herself for it (she takes his hand and slaps herself). This is in tune with the atrocities in the society, though people have suffered oppression for several millenniums, still they forget that oppressed also act as oppressors sometimes. This is the subaltern point of view, which is rarely spoken about, caste exists in society but women oppression and patriarchy exists in every nook and corner of it and the caste thrives through this patriarchy.


Plot Analysis of ‘Kabali’:

Kabali (Protagonist) is an incarcerated prisoner who has spent 25 years in jail, he is about to be released based on his good behaviour. His enemies, Tony, Veera, Loga and Seeni run casinos, pedal drugs and are involved in other illegal actives. Kabali goes around and kills everybody with Loga, after the meeting with him goes badly. Tony’s team decides to hire ‘Yogi’ an assassin, to kill Kabali. Yogi shoots down Seeni, when he is about to attack Kabali and reveals that, she is Kabali’s daughter. Kabali and Yogi fly to Tamil Nadu in search of Kumudha (Kabali’s wife). Meanwhile, his school has been vandalized and his friends are either hospitalized or killed. Kabali destroys Tony’s empire and claims his revenge by killing Tony and Veera. Police instigates Tiger against Kabali, the movie is left opened ended as to not revealing whether Tiger killed Kabali or not.


Dialogue Analysis and interpretation of ‘Kabali’:

Semantic 1:

(Kabali thinking about the past)

Kumudha (Ku): Is this how you ignore a pregnant wife?

Kabali (K): What do you want?

Ku: I want to go to sleep hugging you.


Pragmatic 1:

Kabali gets to imagine and think about his past. He comes late to the house and his pregnant wife worries about him. She displays the love, affection and care she holds for her husband, Kabali. She expresses it by saying that she should hold him tight and go to sleep. She also takes care of all other affairs at home managing it with meticulous precision. Other than that, she is also pregnant with a child, so she complains about her discomforts and asks him to help out occasionally. This is the first actual dialogue uttered by the lead lady Kumudha. Though this move is about a revenge and family, the movie mainly focuses around revenge and display of power, with only occasionally references to family. Kumudha is shown in flesh only around 20 minutes after the movie begins. This could either mean that women have very little role to play outside the house or that it’s a revenge movie and women’s role is behind the screen here. This represents her love, care and affection she displays towards him also indicating that the whole world revolves around him. This depicts the sad situation in many households, where woman are reduced to mere subordinates who hold the family together.


Semantic 2:

(Kabali’s imagination)

Ku: Don’t you know where I’m, how long do I have to wait? Why do you torment a pregnant woman this way? (Touching his collar) Why is your collar so dirty? What will others think if they see this?


Pragmatic 2:

Kabali imagines that she is waiting for him somewhere. His desperate search for her, leads to his mind playing tricks over him and he starts to hallucinate. He wants to find his missing wife, who is believed to be dead. She still depicts her caring for him, by asking him why his collar is dirty, and what others might think of him, with a dirty collar. After his wife advised him to wear suits and dress neatly as a political influencer, he becomes very concerned with cloths and appearance. From wearing a normal patterned shirt, he goes on to wear expensive suits. Despite several people criticizing him, he wears that suit with pride as per his wife’s instructions. Even when she goes missing, in Kabali’s imagination she is very caring and expresses it, in ways that she knows. Some people might also interpret it as the women’s work being relegated to cooking and cleaning. Especially once their status begins to rise (Kumudha is initially seen as working in the fields but later she remains confined to her home). Even in his imagination, after several years of separation, she points out the dirty shirt, this sets women to typical stereotypic standards of cooking and cleaning and caring for husband, without having any frame or space of their own (cinematically and in real life), which is basically a reflection of the real society.


Semantic 3:

(Kabali looks at his daughter in awe)

K: Uh.uh. Do you know everything beforehand?

Yogi: Yes dad! Not very long ago, just before a few days, when they contacted me with the assignment to kill you. Only then, Velu daddy revealed that you’re my biological father. They asked me to kill my own father. I too, followed you with a gun to protect you. I tried to contact you somehow, but (Kabali’s hands cover her hand) Mom is not dead dad, she is alive.


Pragmatic 3:

After learning that he has a daughter, Kabali is almost in a state of trance. He is unable to believe himself, that his daughter is all grown up and even saved him from being killed in a fight. He asks her if she knew all along, that he was her dad and she says she just got to know it before a few days. She finally says that, Kumudha (her mother) is also alive. Which finally gives peace to Kabali, whose been searching for her for a long time. On a larger scale, Yogi resembles a man, with her attire. This leads to a dichotomy of thoughts, either yogi is just a resemblances of her father (a don), or she is manly so she could fit within the framework, imitating men so she could operate just like a man does. The stereotype of passive women is broken, but another stereotype of women (who operates as a man) is created by the looks of her. It could also simply mean that, it gives her power to operate and be equal among men. She serves as a key to his search of his wife Kumudha. Though being a girl, she plays the role of a son, caring for her dad, protecting him in his difficult times which can be construed as depiction to be accepted as breaking patriarchy (or stereotypes at the least).


Semantic 4:

(Kabali and Yogi meeting Kumudha)

Ku: (Speechless after seeing Kabali)

K: Everyone said you were dead.

Ku: I was dead until you came and saw me.

(She is seen making a bed).


Pragmatic 4:

Kabali meets Kumudha after a tiring search. Seeing Kabali she is speechless. This is the actual way she remains throughout the film, with nothing to say. If she opens her mouth, it is either to express her love and care for her husband, or to support him. She is portrayed as selfless women, which gives raise to another discourse whether women are actually selfless, or forced to be selfless, by the authority of patriarchy. Kabali says everybody thought that she was dead. She reveals that she too felt dead, without knowing about them. Again, as she is seen making a bed (as a typically homemaker), Kabali (as a typical husband) again dishevels the sheets. This again represents the majority of the women of the previous generation, bound inside the house to be dutiful to their husbands. Kabali recounts that they might have lived in a similar house for about two years. She recounts the exact no of days they lived in that house, implying that, the house was her world, and she not only loved to be caged inside the house, but also cherished her time there and was thinking for the next 25 years about the days where she lived with her husband peacefully. This is a representation of a larger society, where women love and care for their family and children, and any other spheres of their lives are almost absent.


Semantic 5:

K: Kumudha, you do recognize them right?

Veera: How will she forget?

Ku: I wont forget. This is I, Kabali’s wife. This is my daughter Yogi. Look carefully.


Pragmatic 5:

Kabali heads over to meet Tony and Veera and asks Kumudha causally whether she remembers them. To which Veera, says that how can she forget the people who actually dragged her to the brink of death and separated her from her family for 25 years. By saying this Veera boasts about his poor action and expresses a show of dominance and power. As a reply to it, she says that she didn’t forget anything, and identifies herself as a sub-identity of Kabali (This is I, Kabali’s wife). And says that “This is my daughter Yogi” (which is to say that she loves her family). A larger implication might mean that, she has no identity of her own; she is wife of Kabali, who gave birth to Yogi (which relegates women to the job offspring generating machines). The sad reality is, women are being deprived of other joys (sometimes deny to themselves) and maintain the family, as the only pillar on which they stand.


Interpretation of Social Codes in ‘Sairat’:

Bodily and Behavioural Code:    

Throughout the film, Parshya is beaten up by several people and is always helpless. Initially Mangaya beats up Parshya, and then he gets beaten up by police, goons etc. Whenever Parshya, is in trouble, Archie shows up, threatens or physically beats up the opponents and then saves him. In a stereotypical narrative the prince is always the one who saves the princess, but here the roles are reversed, she is both powerful and feminine and she saves him from all the trouble he faces. In fact she is the one who initiates the plan of eloping, thereby setting them free. Even after the marriage, she doesn’t know how to cook, she gets up and reads newspaper and he cleans the house and cooks for her, which again reiterates the role reversals. Only after he goes to a job and starts earning the reversed roles start to disappear and the institutional husband and wife roles start to appear. Which establishes the rules of capitalism, the power lies where the money is. When both of them get a job, when she rises towards equality (financially and socially) he starts to doubt her, belittle her (cooking skills), and finally accuses her of immoral behavior and harasses her and hurts her. The only person the weak, male (Parshya) hurts in the film is the powerful girl that saved him from all his troubles. This connotes to the happening of the society where patriarchy defames, attacks and belittles every achievement of womanhood and woman whenever it tries to rise to the same level and therefore tries to control women. With establishing control over a woman and her body, the system of caste was able to persist for 3000 years, wherever the women tries to escape the grasp of patriarchy and make a choice of her own, it breaks the system of caste, unable to tolerate these happens, finally culminates in honour Killing.


Commodity Code:

The heroine (Archie) is the person who drives the story (she could be called the protagonist of the story). Archie drives several vehicles throughout the movie, unlike Parshya, who never drives any vehicle in the story. She rides a Horse, Bullet, Vespa, Tractor and Active throughout the movie. The vehicle in the movie serves as a symbol, which represents the attitude and the feeling of the character. She rides a Horse, Bullet and Tractor whenever she is representing power. When she rides with her friend on the Vespa (a feminine scooter), when she is not the driver of the vehicle, but is driven around by someone else, is when she is driven by the love of Parshya. Towards the end of the film, she drives her husband and kid around in an Activa, a vehicle that is both powerful and equally feminine.


The costumes worn by her, especially before she elopes with Parshya, usually have a semi-overcoat or a small collar or a shirt. Dresses with collars and coats are associated with men and power, hence the collar and coat represents the her power, though not fully a masculine dress, but it depicts power, the later half after her eloping, her dressing becomes more feminine and finally she wears a saree towards the end, where she becomes institutionalized and completely absorbed into her marriage. The sign of saree represents a dangerous situation in the film, for the entirety of the film, she wears saree only in three scenes, the first scene is where, she is forced to get married to someone, the second scene is towards the climax of the film, where she informs her mom about her whereabouts and her child and the final scene where she is killed, these three scenes are the only scenes in the film where Archie is in actual danger. Her being forced into the patriarchal control of stereotypical expectation of a women to wear saree, is seen as the danger here, thereby connotation that, Women is in actual danger whenever she falls within norms that is set by patriarchal society (Notion that, a women should wear saree).


Interpretation of Social Codes in ‘Kabali’:

Bodily and Behavioural Code:

The space for the women is comparatively less in the film ‘Kabali’. The picture of Kumudha is placed safely inside his wallet, just like how she has been kept inside the house with very little role to play outside her house. Kumudha appears in the screen only in the 20th minute of the film and occupies very little screen time, in spite of the movie being themed around the search for her. She appears to be pregnant, in her initial introduction scene, which connotes that, her main responsibility is to bear child for her husband and take care of household works such as cooking and cleaning. Throughout the movie she is seen either serving food for guests or for her husband and helps him get dresses, and in his difficulties she offers her moral support. Even when she leaves her husband, she works as a domestic help, again chaining her to household works. The woman is shown as being subservient to man, without any goals or aims of her own, her world revolves around the activities of her husband. This might be interpreted by some as strengthening the stereotypic portray of woman, as just a machine which produces offspring, cooks and cleans, cementing her position in the kitchen, and nothing more.

In toto there are 5 women characters, which are depicted in the film, of which Banu, Meena, Kumudha and Fathima are all framed within the walls of Patriarchy, Yogi being the only exception. Banu has been dealing drugs and is abandoned by her husband, Meena has drug abuse problems and is a teenage mother whose child has been separated from her, Fathima runs a school and is a bold lady to the outside world, but inside the house she is found to be submissive and conservative (Covers her head with a scarf) before her husband, Kumudha is the obedient house wife who takes care of her husband’s needs. The only character that breaks the rules of patriarch and operates outside it is Yogi.


Commodity Code:

Yogi, the only female operating outside patriarchy, has to imitate male behavior (Short hair, dresses in shirts / overcoats and pants, tattooed over her body) to operate on that platform. In spite of this, women are just depicted as a weakness to Kabali, where he is held captive when his wife or daughter (climax) is taken as hostage. This subtly implies not only that, women are powerless, but also reinstates that, women are only a weakness through the repeating motifs.


The costumes of Kumudha, is a typical saree, with a blouse which runs till her elbows. This conservative dress pattern is not only followed in some scenes, but is maintained throughout the film in every scene she appears to be subservient to rules of patriarchy. Though Kabali the protagonist speaks at length about status quo and breaking the status quo and the power of dressing in foreign attire, he is still very happy to keep his wife bound with the traditional attire making her submissive and powerless (according to Kabali’s own discourse on cloths). Yogi’s character escapes the typical stereotypical women character, but to break this, she metaphorically transforms into a man via. a short hair cut, wearing over coats and showcasing tattoos over her skin. Only by imitating a man shall a woman be able to attain her freedom. Overall the film speaks in an unflinching tone about power and breaking of the status quo, it is readable from the numerous dialogues spoken by Kabali, “If my rising to the power, is a problem for you, then I will rise to power. With style and class.”, and his position of superiority that he assumes, whenever he is faced by an opponent. Kabali is placed in a higher ground than the enemies and his enemies always fall at his feat in the brink of defeat (Seeni, Velu, Tony etc.) Though the entire narrative is rooted in the concept of power, still the film fails to emancipate women or deliver power to them.



Dalit literate mirrors realities of Dalit situations, it is said to be revolutionary, transformative and liberatory. Dalit cinema, which falls under the category of Dalit literature, also adheres to similar rules. The grim reality is that women are discriminated based on their gender. The condition of women across the array of caste still remains pathetic, irrespective of where her caste is situated in vertical hierarchy of caste system. If women from lower caste are abused citing her caste as the pretext, the women from upper caste are equally caged in patriarchy, via suppression of their desires, rituals and norms of the society. It must be noted that both these women from both the films are not from the lower caste, they choose by themselves to get married to the males from the so-called lower castes. The directors must pay utmost attention, to how these out of the low‑caste women are treated by the protagonists from the alleged low-caste. This has a potential, to initiate a counter discourse, to the discourse that the director is actually trying to make.


The enigma of portrayal of a character in itself is challenging and becomes even more complex when portraying through a marginalized prism. Should women be depicted as the powerless, identity–less being, though a harsh reality of the society, or should alternative powerful and (empowered) identities be portrayed. One solution could be the transformation of characters from one realm to other, but not all movies might want to focus on it. Dalit literature shoulders the extra burden of being painstaking cautions, as it is an alternate voice against the voices of oppression. Film has the power to change societies; it is a visible fact from the history political milieu of Tamil Nadu, and the fandom the cinema stars enjoy in India (especially Tamil Nadu). Though it is well within the director’s prerogative to portray his characters as per his wishes, every director has the potential to change the discourse of women in the society. This may not be immediately but at least in the foreseeable future. The rise of empowered characterizations could pave the way for empowerment of women to break the hegemonic structure of caste.



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