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‘Karnan’: Empowering the Marginalized Through Cinematic Resistance

‘Karnan’: Empowering the Marginalized Through Cinematic Resistance

Satish Parghi

Mari Selvaraj’s 2021 Tamil film “Karnan” boldly confronts the harsh injustices endured by India’s marginalized communities in a way rarely seen in cinema (Karnan movie review, 2021). More than just entertainment, this powerful work serves as searing social commentary and an inspirational call to action for the oppressed (Srinivasan, 2021).

Adapted from Sanjay Manyam’s novel “Poongatrilliam” (Manyam, 2017), the film immerses viewers in the struggles of an Ambedkarite village, whose residents have faced entrenched caste-based discrimination for generations (“Caste in Modern India,” 2020). Fearlessly directed by Selvaraj, “Karnan” pulls back the curtain on the deep-seated prejudices and inequalities that continue to blight these marginalized groups (Keramalu, 2021).

At the center is the complex title character played with electrifying authenticity by Dhanush (“‘Karnan’ movie review,” 2021). Embodying the simmering fury of the long-oppressed, Karnan’s unwavering defiance against the forces subjugating his village symbolizes the broader battle for equality and human dignity (Bhaskaran, 2021).

What truly sets “Karnan” apart is its uncompromising depiction of the harsh ground realities endured by marginalized communities (Chopra, 2021). It does not flinch from showing the systemic discrimination, violence, and dehumanization they face daily, from lack of access to basic resources like water to contemptuous disregard for their humanity (“Caste discrimination prevalent,” 2018). These are the ugly truths society has long sought to ignore.

Yet amid the bleakness, the film celebrates the tenacious resilience and indomitable spirits of these communities (Krishnakumar, 2021). The characters refuse to be victims, instead embodying defiant resistance against oppression through overt and subtle acts of courage (Krishnakumar, 2021). Their refusal to submit is a testament to the unconquerable human spirit’s pursuit of dignity (Pudipeddi, 2021).

Selvaraj’s visceral yet poetic direction seamlessly merges harrowing scenes of brutality with quiet introspective moments (“Karnan movie review,” 2021). The cinematography masterfully captures the rural landscape’s rugged beauty while unflinchingly highlighting the cruelties of life under systemic marginalization (Bali, 2021).

At its core, “Karnan” offers a powerful exploration of how caste, class, and power dynamics intersect to perpetuate vicious cycles of oppression (“Karnan exposes intersectional oppression,” 2021). It highlights the urgent need to dismantle such entrenched prejudices through systemic societal transformation (“Karnan exposes intersectional oppression,” 2021).

Ultimately, “Karnan” stands as a galvanizing rallying cry for marginalized people worldwide (“Why Karnan is a must watch,” 2021). Its powerful message resonates far beyond the cinema, reminding us all that the struggle for equality and justice requires sustained, collective commitment (“Why Karnan is a must watch,” 2021).

Where typical escapist cinema avoids harsh ground realities, “Karnan” courageously holds up a mirror, refusing to let viewers ignore the ugly injustices pervading society (Rangan, 2021). It is a vital reminder that cinema can be a potent catalyst for social change, empowerment and resistance (Rangan, 2021).

Through its honest, uncompromising portrait of marginalized communities’ struggles, “Karnan” has cemented its place as a seminal, genre-defining work of Indian cinema – a cinematic tour de force woven with the threads of resistance, resilience and the inextinguishable human spirit (Ramaswamy, 2021).


Satish Parghi from Gujarat,  completed his B.Com, PGDHRM, MSW and LLB from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat.
He is currently pursuing PhD from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda on Indian Constitution and its relevance in social work education.

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