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Soch Aur Shauch: Reading Brahminism and patriarchy in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha

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This article locates how the recent resurgence of cinema from the Hindi heartland valourizes Brahminical notions of modernity. Closely reading the film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017), it argues that the film aligns with the simplistic rationale of the state’s ‘Swachch Bharat Abhiyan’, which blames basic ignorance and lack of access to latrines for open defecation in rural Uttar Pradesh, not, as sociological evidence argues, ideologies of caste purity. This article examines the depiction of the film’s Brahmin male lead as an agent of modernity through the logic of Brahminical scriptures rather than institutionalized emphasis on health, sanitation and hygiene. This public staging of a Hindu heroic will propelling the nation into an age of progress utilizes the formal characteristics of realist melodrama that echoes the authoritarian impulses of the state, I argue, reinforcing nation-building as tied to patriarchal caste dharma through its spatial representations and imagined citizen-subjects.
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Keywords: Brahmin modernity; Hindi heartland; Swachch Bharat; caste; open defecation; patriarchy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Indiana University

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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  • Studies in South Asian Film and Media (SAFM) is the most promising new journal in the field. This peer-reviewed publication is committed to looking at the media and cinemas of the Indian subcontinent in their social, political, economic, historical, and increasingly globalized and diasporic contexts. The journal will evaluate these topics in relation to class, caste, gender, race, sexuality, and ideology.
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