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KARUPPI AND THE CURSE OF CASTE - MUST READ!!!

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Karuppi and casteism in Pariyerum Perumal

Pariyerum Perumal hit the screens on 28th September this year. It has been one of the most critically acclaimed movies in Tamil Cinema. Karuppi, the dog was one of the most important characters in the film. The bonding between Karuppi and Pariyan was so beautiful that we all craved for more such scenes.


Who is Karuppi?


Within the first 10 minutes of the film, the dog Karuppi dies in a gory “accident.” Who is Karuppi? Why did she die? What is her significance in the movie, when she has very little screen time?


Karuppi is not just a dog. She is a metaphor for every oppressed soul out there. Karuppi is an innocent dog that doesn’t know the difference between various castes or religions. Yet, it is a victim of the cruel caste system prevalent in the society. Similarly, every human who is a victim of caste-based violence is Karuppi. It doesn’t have to be fatal, because even the slightest form of discrimination is discrimination.


Karuppi might have died very soon, but still she makes her appearance in various scenes of the movie. Here is a list of the scenes where the innocent and beautiful Karuppi speaks to us:


1) Karuppi, the dog: In the starting moments of the film, a certain people from a higher caste tie down Karuppi to a railway track and walk away. Being an innocent dog, she doesn’t know why she is going to die. She doesn’t know what is behind all this cruelty.

“உன் கிட்ட படிச்சி படிச்சி சொன்னேனே கேட்டியா

யார் கூப்டு நீ போன ஏன் டி போன

எத்தன தடவ சொல்லி இருக்கேன்

எல்லா மனுசனும் இங்கே ஒன்னு இல்லன்னு”


Pariyan screams his heart out, but no matter how many times you tell Karuppi about the differences, it just cannot differentiate between 2 humans. We silently wish the world was filled with Karuppis.


2) The girl who cries inside the bus: A few scenes later, once Pariyan gets admitted into a law college, we witness an old man killing a co-passenger in the bus. The person who died might have understood why he died. But, the lady in the last seat of the bus who weeps her heart out for the dead person will never understand. It could be a brother, it could be her boy friend, it could be a friend, literally anyone close to her. All that she knows is that a person she loved a lot is no more. She is also Karuppi.


3) Jo (a) Jothi Mahalakshmi:  Similar to the lady in the last seat of the bus, she has loads of love on Pariyan. In the whole college, she only invites Pariyan to a wedding, which turns to be an unfortunate day for Pariyan. He is beaten up mercilessly, and a person even goes to the extent of urinating on him. Pariyan is humiliated so much, but Jo doesn’t have the tiniest of clue about this. She is innocent, and with the knowledge she has, she has all rights to be angry with Pariyan. The most striking feature about her character - She doesn’t know much about her caste. Not the intricacies at least. She is the hope for the next generation. She is not going to tell her children much about her caste. It will transform from an identity to just a name that no one cares about. Later, it will become a piece of history. She is the Karuppi, we all want to become.


4) Kowsalya: She is not a major character in the film. She is the lady who is choked to death by the old man, for going to a temple with a male. The family members don’t know what kind of relationship it is. Their only problem is that the whole village speaks ill of the two. Even she doesn’t know why she dies. She doesn’t know that caste is the reason, because if she cared about caste, she wouldn’t have met ‘the guy’ in the first place.


5) Raja: Raja is a respected man in the village. The people are ready to listen to what he says. When he goes to bail out Pariyan and his friends from the Police Station, he is humiliated. Caste makes the inspector’s eyes blind and ears deaf. He fails to see beyond the caste of Pariyan, the friends, and Raja. They become victims because of their caste. Like how Karuppi is punished for being close to Pariyan… these villagers are also punished because of the caste they are close to. But one thing we’ve to remember- Karuppi didn’t choose Pariyan and these villagers didn’t choose their caste.


6) Ramalakshmi: Remember the scene where the old man kills a school boy by drowning him in a pond? When he enters the pond, all his friends shout the name of girl he is interested in. They all shout the name Ramalakshmi. She is also a Karuppi, who will have no idea as of why the boy died.


7) Pariyan’s father: The poor man is used to dressing up as a woman and dancing, for survival. Pariyan finds it difficult to explain others about his father’s profession. It was absolutely gut-wrenching to see Pariyan’s father being insulted in front of the whole college. The man has a heart of gold. He empathises with his son’s situation in college. His innocence is taken for granted by the privileged. You can’t help but shed a tear or two, when you listen Pariyan’s mother tell him that it is something which happens regularly.


8) Pariyerum Perumal: There is a quote which says - When you love someone, they become a part of you. Similarly, Pariyan is a Karuppi by himself. In the first scene of the film, Pariyan and his friends are seen bathing in a pool of water. They also wash their dogs here. When they see a group of upper caste men come there, they walk away. What we see next - The upper caste men start urinating in the pond. Pariyan and his friends have no idea about this. Perhaps, they've been doing it for a long time and Pariyan doesn't know about it. Or, this is the first time out of many times that they're doing it. But, the innocence of Pariyan and his friends make all of them Karuppis.


Throughout the movie, in order to hurt Pariyan, they kill his dog, they attack his father, they hurt ‘his’ Jo, and finally even try to kill him.  Even though he escapes the killer, he cannot escape the caste system. He comes to terms with the fact - all that he can do is bark at the system. The caste system is the train that hits Karuppi. Karuppi, being tied to the track, can only bark at it. Sometimes, the bark is heard, but it cannot stop the train. Or else, the honking of the train is loud enough to silence Karuppi’s barking.


“நீங்க நீங்களா இருக்கற வரைக்கும்,

நாங்க நாயா தான் இருக்கனும் னு

நீங்க எதிர் பாக்கற வரைக்கும்

இங்க எதுவும் மாறாது.

இப்படியே தன் இருக்கும்.”

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