‘Caste on the Menu Card’ (2014) is a 21 min long documentary film made by the 5 students of School of Media and Cultural Studies (SMCS), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai as part of their coursework. It is one of the 6 films made under the theme of ‘Castemopolitan Mumbai’ by the MA students of SMCS, TISS. It was to be screened on 31st October during the 12th Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Film Festival, October 30 – November 1, 2015 at Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi.
On Oct 29, a day before the festival, we were informed by the festival organizer Manoj Matthew that our documentary film cannot be screened because the Joint Secretary of the Film Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has denied the permission for the same. Mr Matthew further says that the Ministry had denied the permission when they found the mention of ‘beef’ in the synopsis of the film.
Out of 19 films which are scheduled for the screening in the festival, only our film has been denied the permission. Mr Matthew tried to reason with the officials saying that the film is not of ‘religious’ nature.
The documentary film had its first public screening in Mumbai on January 5, 2015 during the Cut.In Student Film Festival at TISS. It had subsequent public screenings at University of Hyderabad in March 2015, last week at Society for Rural Urban and Tribal Initiative (SRUTI) and last Sunday at Rolling Frames Film Summit 2015, Bangalore.
We are shocked and deeply upset about the turn of events. We are planning to get the film screened on college campuses and civil society organizations across the country to encourage a dialogue. Moreover, we will be releasing the film online in the days ahead.
Synopsis of the film: The film delves into the idea of food as a site of exclusion by focusing on beef-eating practices in Mumbai. It attempts to portray the prevalence of caste differentiations as seen in the food choices of people in the city and touches upon concerns related to livelihood, social inclusion and human rights.
By tracing the mythological and historical roots of the meat-eating culture in our country, the film discusses the hierarchy maintained by Brahminical preferences and its intended subversions. This is seen in the stand taken on dealing with the political economy of the leather and meat industries.
The film also follows the ruptured background of universities’ caste politics over the demand of inclusion of beef in institutions. It observes that many restaurants in Mumbai offer beef delicacies, but off the menu. Thus, the film reads ‘Caste on the Menu Card’.
Filmmakers of ‘Caste on the Menu card’
Ananyaa Gaur, Anurup Khillare, Atul Anand, Reetika Revathy Subramanian and Vaseem Chaudhary