Delhi filmmaker Tarun Jain's short film on racism, Kaala, explores racism beyond black and white
Filmmaker Tarun Jain recently made headlines when his short film, Kaala, got into the race for Oscars after winning the Best Narrative Short Drama award at Cinequest Film & VR Festival in San Jose, USA. Talking to Hindustan Times, the filmmaker shares the journey of writing and making the film, and how it also transformed his own outlook towards racial discrimination.
"I have never been at the receiving end of discrimination. I have lived my life in Delhi and growing up, I never realised the caste-based discrimination ingrained in our society. After the racial attacks on African nationals in Delhi, I decided to explore the subject and decided to spend time with college students in the city. I researched for six months, looking closely at how 'outsiders' are treated here. Not just foreign nationals, but even those from our own country," he said.
Elaborating on how people from North East are often discriminated against, Tarun said, "Slowly, I woke up to the sub-conscious level of discrimination. Our growing years play an important part in how we behave. We grow up watching our elders behave in a certain manner with people from so called lower caste. The factor of untouchability is never taught to people but ingrained with our own surroundings."
Talking about his cast, Tarun said he auditioned many people before he found Jude Boman Tony who plays the protagonist. "Jude brought his own angle to the narrative. He had his own, real life experiences of the subject, from his stay in Delhi. I rewrote several parts of the film after meeting him."
Tarun also added that he wanted to expand the subject, which is why an Indian, dark-skinned character is also there in the film. The short film, which showcases one incident of violent, unprovoked attack on Jude's character by a group of students, features this dark-skinned character in the group itself. And, he is often discriminated against. At one point, he is even asked to compare his skin with that of the African national they have attacked. "It is not about Indian attacking foreign nationals. It is the same everywhere. We feel bad when it happens to an Indian abroad, but we do not shy away from attacking 'others' in our own space either. Based on caste, religion, or even skin colour, we discriminate against fellow human beings," Tarun said.
He also shared a personal experience when he was scared. "I was in the US for a film festival and it got really late at night when I was walking back from the venue, all alone, in a dark street. Suddenly, a group of young men came and threatened me. Thankfully nothing unpleasant happened. But the whole idea that they believed they could threaten me and corner me, was scary. And this happened in an area which has many people of Indian origin!"
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