This Article is From Aug 16, 2023

Explained: Dalit Erasure Claims About Radhika Apte's Made In Heaven Episode

"It also unfortunately erases my own contribution to my own ideas," wrote the author

Explained: Dalit Erasure Claims About Radhika Apte's Made In Heaven  Episode

Radhika Apte in the marriage scene of the show. (Courtesy: Radhika Apte)

New Delhi:

An episode of Made In Heaven season 2 starring Radhika Apte has been hailed for its depiction of a Dalit wedding . Directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, the episode has been praised for its portrayal of an accomplished and educated woman who embraces her Dalit identity with pride. However, it appears that reality bites both ways. Writer Yashica Dutt, author of a book titled Coming Out As Dalit, has argued publicly that Pallavi, the character played by Radhika Apte, is a version of herself and has called out the makers for failing to credit her. In a detailed post on Dalit erasure, Ms Dutt addresses both caste and gender.

Before we dive in, it should be noted that Neeraj Ghaywan did credit Ms Dutt in an Instagram post shared before her note, formerly known as Twitter. In it, he cites Yashica Dutt's book as inspiration for a specific scene in the episode and includes a photo of her as well as her book.

The writer herself is bemoaning the lack of formal acknowledgement. In her extensive note, Yashica Dutt explains how thrilling it was for her to see Dalit representation on screen, calling it a “cinematic triumph” – however, Pallavi's backstory is so close to her own that “heartbreak set in” over being ignored in the credits. While its very likely that Neeraj Ghaywan's vision of an empowered Dalit woman might match the lived experiences of many, the similarities to Yashica Dutt are too striking to pass for coincidence – like Ms Dutt, Pallavi studied at Columbia, wrote a book on the subject of “coming out” and discusses her grandmother's job as a cleaner.

Just as Pallavi reclaimed her power in Made In Heaven, Yashica Dutt writes about reclaiming her “worth and contribution to the discourse and history.”

In her note, she writes: “Our lives are so crazy, they should make a movie about it." We knew that would never happen. There were no chracters on screen who were humanized beyond their suffering. Before I came out as Dalit in 2016, there was no vocabulary to identify the process of revealing your Dalitness after hiding it for years and owning it with pride either. Today in 2023 there is both. Dalit directors like Neeraj Ghaywan have revolutionized our cinematic language by showcasing unapologetic Dalits in Bollywood, a tradition that has an even longer history in Southern cinema. The Heart Skipped A Beat, the fifth episode of Amazon Prime's Made In Heaven is no less a acinematic triumph when it comes to showcasing what it truly looks like for a Dalit woman to take her power back from this casteist society."

“The scene where the Dalit author who is from Columbia, has written a book about “Coming Out,” and talks about how her grandmother “manually cleaned toilets” (while wearing all blue as an homage to Ambedkar), asserts her selfhood with her life partner-to-be, gave me chills. It was surreal to see a version of my life on screen that wasn't yet was still me. But soon the heartbreak set in,” Yashica Dutta writes, “They were my words but my name was nowhere. What could have been a celebration about our collective ideas was now tinged with sadness. The ideas I cultivated, that are my life's work, that I continue to receive immense hate still for just speaking, were taken without permission or credit.”

“Dalits have a long history of being taken from, erased, ignored, obliterated from their own stories. Dalit women in particular are the easiest to take from, what's the worth in the labour they've created anyway. It's for everybody to claim. Except this time, I'm reclaiming my work, my worth, and my contribution to the discourse and history, defying the order of what's expected of me as a woman who is always supposed to fine tune the ‘register of her rage.' The Made In Heaven episode is stunning in its portrayal of a Dalit woman and her Buddhist inter-caste wedding. It also unfortunately erases my own contribution to my own ideas," writes Yashica Dutt in her powerful note.

The note goes on to explain that Ms Dutt is aware of Neeraj Ghaywan's post crediting her but that it was shared after several voices, who were struck by how similar Pallavi's life was to the writer's, began raising queries about acknowledgment. "I request Neeraj Ghaywan, and the show creators Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti to formally acknowledge my life's work and ideas that contributed to this episode, which is among the most talked in the entire series, beyond a post on social media and within the show's credits," Yashica Dutt writes.

Yashica Dutt signed off her post with these words, "Let's acknowledge the Dalit Labour and set a precedent for giving credit where it's due instead of the now common practice in the streaming world of 'taking it without permission first, apologizing later." Yashica Dutt wrote in the caption, "It's been an overwhelming few days. Seeing my likeness on screen without warning or permission was a roller-coaster starting from thrill and excitement to sadness and loss. I continue to support @neeraj.ghaywan's excellent work, whether now with Made in Heaven or Geeli Pucchi before. But this needs to be addressed."

In the comments thread, Yashica Dutt also dismisses those questioning why she should be credited.

See her post here:

Neeraj Ghaywan's post from a few days ago cited both Yashica Dutt's book as well as Dalit author Sujatha Gidla's Ants Among Elephants as part of his research. "Thanks to @yashicadutt and her book (Coming Out as a Dalit) which made the term "coming out" become part of the popular culture lexicon for owning one's Dalit identity. This inspired Pallavi's interview section in the episode. All of their work has set a precedent for me to carry forward. The love this episode has received is a validation for all of us mentioned in this post who have been battling prejudice. And I hope, someday, people will really see through the disparity when they look at the matrimonial section of a newspaper. Or offer their unconditional empathy to a friend, a colleague, a partner, or even someone around who is struggling with their identity," he wrote about Ms Dutt.

Here's his post:

Directed by Zoya Akhtar, Alankrita Shrivastava, Neeraj Ghaywan and Nitya Mehra, Made In Heaven's cast cast includes Arjun Mathur, Sobhita Dhulipala, Jim Sarbh, Kalki Koechlin, Shashank Arora, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Mona Singh, Trinetra Haldar and Vijay Raaz.