‘Aashram’ Review: Bobby Deol’s Series Is Tacky, But It Exposes Hindutva's Lies
In one of Aashram’s most significant scenes, a marriage procession of a Dalit man has arrived at the gates of a dominant caste colony. The groom is on a white, decked-up horse. The elders of his family gently coax him to get off the horse: “Get off the horse now. Once we have crossed the upper caste colony, you can get on it again.” Others shush the dhols being played by the younger men and women. A group of smug, dominant caste men meet the procession and ask the people to keep playing the dhol and dance. The younger, hopeful Dalit men and women erupt in glee, but the older men are still sort of frozen with suspicion. And their fears come true — soon, a bunch of dominant caste men start harassing the women in the procession. As the women protest, the savarna men swoop down on the procession, clobbering the men with lathis and butts of guns, kicking and slapping them, pushing and dragging the women — it’s almost a picnic of violence.
From a production point of view, the scene is mediocre at best. Most of the actors come across as wooden, their dialogue delivery is almost robotic at times and the lines are melodramatic. Yet, it is perhaps the only scene in recent memory that I have watched in a Hindi film or OTT show that shows, fairly unhesitantly, how dominant castes treat violence as a recreational sport, and treat basic rights in a democracy as trophies they like snatching from Dalit Bahujan people.
The opening section from Aashram’s first season was “inspired” by the real-life incident of a Dalit man who was beaten up for riding a horse to his wedding. Aashram is a loosely tied string of several such incidents, but the central premise is critical of the majoritarian Hindutva politics dominating the country at present. However, its rhetoric is very 90s drama, and the preachiness blocks out any hope of nuance. As a result, the series’ treatment of caste-based discrimination and violence is heavy-handed. Significantly, the main cast...