Kakkoos, a searing film on manual scavenging by documentary filmmaker Divya Bharathi is the kind of film that everyone in India should see at least once. After she faced heavy losses trying to bring the film out on DVD, Divya has uploaded the film for free viewing on YouTube.
26-year-old Divya, who is from Arupukkottai in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu, made the film after two workers employed as manual scavengers died when they inhaled poisonous gas in a septic tank. This was in October 2015 and Divya, an activist, was part of the three-day protest that followed this incident. Unable to bear what she was seeing, Divya read more about the issue, noting that there were several such deaths which took place across the state but did not lead to any meaningful action.
The film, which is a stinging indictment of the state and society, has run into problems at several venues where Divya has attempted to screen it. Since it delves into the caste and class dynamics involved in manual scavenging and the state's complicity in maintaining status quo, it has succeeded in ruffling feathers all round.
Speaking to The News Minute, Divya said, "I couldn't take the film forward on DVD. I don't have manpower or money power. Taking the DVD route resulted in a heavy loss and therefore we've made it available for free now so that it reaches everybody easily."
Asked about the opposition that her film has faced so far, Divya said, "I still haven't been able to screen the film in my hometown Madurai. That's how much opposition the film faces. Who can do anything about it? We tried four times to get the film a screening but the police prevented us from doing it citing law and order issues."
Not just Madurai, Divya's film has not been able to get permission in other parts of Tamil Nadu as well.
"The Coimbatore and Nagercoil police too have not allowed us to screen the film. In fact, the Nagercoil police termed me an antisocial element. They even called me a Naxalite and a terrorist!" Divya alleges.
Divya and crew managed to organise screenings in Delhi. However, she alleges that from the first screening, there were personnel from an investigative agency of the government following them and causing disruptions. "The final screening was in Kerala House and they refused us permission," Divya says.
Though Kakkoos has received acclaim for its unflinching portrayal of India's shameful tradition of manual scavenging, the film has been viewed only by select audiences so far.
"This capitalistic government has given us YouTube and social media. It is with these tools that we must oppose what they are doing. Though the government tries to ban films like Kakkoos, we should build a movement to reach the people, encourage debate, and shake the government up. I feel Kakkoos has been able to accomplish that," she asserts.
With graphic visuals of human beings engaged in the unhygienic, unsafe and dehumanising task of cleaning faeces and other wastes day in and day out, Kakkoos is a hard film to watch. But it's not mere exploitative cinema – Divya keenly observes the gender, caste and class dynamics involved in the profession which political groups feed on, providing the viewer an unbiased view of the current scenario.