Narratives of Dalits, Muslims and marginalised communities missing in serials: Actor Gayathri

Gayathri Varsha is recognised by the audience for her role as Sarasu, the wife of Pattalam Purushu in the film 'Meesha Madhavan'. Photo | YouTube

Film and serial actor Gayathri Varsha has spoken out against discrimination prevalent in the film and serial industry. Gayathri alleged that minorities were marginalised in the arts, specifically in films and serials, and that these creative pursuits were dictated by corporate interests. She charged that in Kerala, with approximately 40 entertainment channels, the narratives of Dalits, Muslims, and marginalised communities were conspicuously absent, overshadowed by caste supremacy. The actor made these remarks in a speech delivered in the Nadapuram Assembly constituency ahead of the Nava Kerala Sadas programme.

"While everyone engages in propaganda, there is not a single media outlet to support the truth-teller. The influence of prominent corporate entities in our society has penetrated cultural spaces, dividing and suppressing us, depriving us of freedom. After Narendra Modi secured a second term in India, a cultural policy was implemented, unknown to many. Approximately, 35 serials are broadcast daily on various channels in Kerala, though not everyone watches all of them. However, they collectively portray a similar narrative.

"Some individuals watch all the serials aired from 6 pm to 10 pm. Is there a single Muslim character in any of these serials? Is there a mother character who wears 'chatta' and 'mundu' (traditional attire of elderly Syrian Christian women)? Is there a Christian priest? Is there a Dalit? Do we witness on television the story of Nangeli, who asserted her right to cover her body by cutting off her breasts, or a woman singing the harvest ditties of the working class? No, we don't. And why is that? Are none of them considered beautiful?

If you ask me about the most beautiful woman from my generation watching movies, I would say it was Soorya, an actress with a beautiful black body portraying the rebel protagonist in the film 'Adaminte Vaariyellu'. Wasn't she a remarkable individual? Have we seen such a heroine in any other serial? Even when a dark-skinned woman was cast in a film and named Sundari, she was dolled up to give her a fair complexion, adorned with a bindi, in a silk saree with the traditional sindoor mark on her forehead. Are they presented this way for no reason? No. It's not without a purpose.

"All these decisions are made by a triangle, a group of 126 individuals whom we constantly fear and who coerce us to live according to their dictates. These 126 individuals are the corporates ruling our country. Among them, two or three corporates make all the decisions. That's one corner of the triangle. The upper class fascist regime of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah decides the base connecting the two corners. Many of our channels operate within this triangle formed by these forces, with the remaining channels also influenced by it. These corporates unconditionally finance the channels, paying them through entirely privately held cross-media ownership.

"Corporates provide funds under government guarantee, and the government wholeheartedly supports them. Narendra Modi's government bows to the corporate world, fulfilling all its demands and surrendering our cultural world to these corporates. The Central Broadcasting Ministry issues directives on what should be broadcast on TV. The primary requirement is to showcase commercials, movies, and songs that enhance corporate business prospects. Another directive is to disseminate only propaganda news. Have we seen any channel here reporting that India is involved in the global arms trade for the 'world bomb' that is America?

"Without addressing these issues, they focus on discussing Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's son, who is unjustly in jail, Swapna's appearance in a black dress, and inquire about Saritha's health. Our Chief Minister and Ministers' joint journey in a single vehicle to reach out to the people directly, disregarding their health and family issues in their advanced age, is dismissed as a propaganda journey. Such news earns rewards for the channels. So, who is shaping this triangle? It is orchestrated by the Central government and corporates," Gayathri Varsha said.

Gayathri Varsha is recognised by the audience for her role as Sarasu, the wife of Pattalam Purushu in the film 'Meesha Madhavan'. She entered the film industry through 'CID Unnikrishnan BA BEd,' portraying Jayaram's sister Uma. Subsequently, she acted in around 100 films and 40 serials, playing notable roles such as the lazy maid Shakuntala in 'Nandanam,' Lathika in 'Parvathy Parinayam,' and Valsala, the sister of Sudheesh's character in 'Kokkara Ko.' Additionally, she has worked as an anchor for programmes such as Akatthalam and Sthree Parvam. Beyond acting, Gayathri excels as an artist in the field of jewellery design.

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