February 5, 2021 11:30:18 am
The Jaat Reservation Agitation of 2016 had left writer, director and actor Kuldeep Ruhil unsettled and curious, with several questions unanswered— What is the significance of reservation for the Jaat community, why are they insistent on getting included in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category and who were the perpetrators of violence in an otherwise peaceful state of Haryana?
His home state Haryana had ‘flared into a devastating inferno of multi-party sectarian violence’, disrobing its integrity. This was Cheer Haran (Disrobement). Striving to understand and dissect the mechanism of violent human conflicts, Ruhil set on a quest.
His documentary, Cheer Haran, that hit the cinemas on January 29, tries to decipher– the Jaat community and reservation.
In Chandigarh for a screening at Elante Mall, Ruhil recalled that he secured a clean chit for the film’s release after a long struggle. While Cheer Haran was to be released in 2018, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had raised objections and directed the makers to get a No Objection Certificate from Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
“Fortunately, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal pulled up the CBFC for asking filmmakers to obtain NOCs from government authorities, departments and individuals before clearing a film,” shared Ruhil, who won his case after moving High Court in January last year.
Unfortunately, the release was then postponed due to Covid-19, and again due to the farmers’ protest. Standing his ground, in the light of the recent Tandav and Mirzapur censor demands, Ruhil said, “If you get bullied, you will be bullied forever. The attacks are by those looking for instant fame, and nothing works faster than the screen to get famous.”
An attempt to explore the undercurrents in Haryana following the Jaat Reservation Agitation in 2016, Cheer Haran is spread over ten chapters.
Not a stranger to the discussion on reservations, for Ruhil, the agitation brought back memories of the 1990 Mandal Commission and the accompanying divide, discrimination, politics and blame game that deeply disturbed him.
Ruhil said his biggest challenge in telling the story was to win the trust of the people he interviewed. “One of the women I interviewed had questioned me about what kind of society are we living in, where were are not scared to attack, kill and burn? My deepest concern is how we are not evolving as a society. We find someone and blindly form a queue behind him.”
These sentiments also echo in Prakash Jha’s web series Aashram on MXPlayer, for which Ruhil is a writer. “Why do we need a person to answer our thoughts and read our mind? I strongly feel, one of the reasons for it is the way we treat our women. They are relegated to household chores, not considered smart enough to enter a discussion or speak their mind. They are rendered an inferior status. So, they form groups and go to satsangs where the so called godmen listen to them, and eventually, exploit them.”
Ruhil’s advocacy for feminism stems from his upbringing at Dahakora near Rohtak in Haryana.
“My mother was not educated, but she was a farmer and looked after our lands. She never discriminated between boys and girls. I was told to do household chores and by the time I was in Class VI, I knew how to cook.”
With little access to films and television, Ruhil would weave his own stories, and eventually joined Robin Das’s theatre group in Delhi– where Russian and Hindi literature creative influences shaped him. He further honed his talent at the Indian Theatre Department of Panjab University.
“We would stage multiple plays and workshops and have amazing visiting faculty. I now find Chandigarh lacking in the creative sphere,” rued Ruhil.
Apart from directing his own web series Yaari, Ruhil has signed a film with Viacom and is writing the sequel to Mahesh Bhatt’s iconic Arth to be directed by Revathi.
Ruhil is also penning the dialogues for Hurdang, movie based on a love story against the backdrop of the 1990 Mandal Commission reservation– coming a full circle!
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