Experiencing Interruptions?

Recasting Selves

Recasting Selves (80 min; 2019)
- in English and Malayalam with English subtitles


Set at CREST (the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation) in Kozhikode, Kerala - the film documents the 'soft skills' training of Dalit and Adivasi post-graduate students in a sensitive and nurturing campus environment as preparation for their employment in the new Indian economy.

As a progressive institution combating caste inequalities, CREST has trained over 1200 students and professionals from marginalized communities in Kerala.
But how politicized or politically aware is the 'recast self'?

Filmed in February and April 2016 - a few months after Rohith Vemula's suicide in Hyderabad, the students are initially forced to confront their own identity and a history of discrimination in the context of Vemula's tragic death.

But matters come to a climax when the CREST students research and select the theme of the semester ending play.
Will they choose to do a play that exposes caste discrimination around Rohit Vemula's suicide?
Or will they select one that expresses their fears about 'Bengali' migration to Kerala?

In this choice of play subject and its ensuing debate, lie signs and markers about power, livelihood and identity politics. And the silence around issues of caste in Kerala...

  • Lalit Vachani
  • Direction, Script and Editing: Lalit Vachani; Research and Concept: Sanjay Srivastava Production and 2nd shoot Direction: Priya Sen Camera: Syed Husain Akbar Location Sound: Godly Koshy Executive Producer: Srirupa Roy A Wide Eye Film for ICAS : MP
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 20 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    August 15, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Malayalam
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Urban Lens Film Festival
    September 19, 2019
  • Bengaluru
  • SIGNS 2019
    September 29, 2019
  • Urban Lens Film Festival
    New Delhi
    November 9, 2019
  • Madurai International Documentary and short film festival
    December 8, 2019
  • 7th Kolkata People's Film Festival
    January 26, 2020
    Kolkata Premiere
  • 8th Chennai International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2020
    February 21, 2020
    Chennai Premiere
Distribution Information
  • ICAS:MP, New Delhi
    Country: Worldwide
Director Biography - Lalit Vachani

Lalit Vachani

Lalit Vachani is a documentary filmmaker, producer and video editor. He is director of the New Delhi based Wide Eye Film. He studied at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

Lalit Vachani’s documentaries include The Starmaker (about the business of ‘starmaking’ in the Hindi film industry); The Boy in the Branch and The Men in the Tree (on the RSS and Hindu nationalism); The Play Goes On (about the left street theatre group, Jana Natya Manch); The Salt Stories (following the trail of Mahatma Gandhi’s salt march in Narendra Modi's India); Tales from Napa (about a village that resisted Hindu fundamentalists during the Gujarat 2002 riots), An Ordinary Election (an in-depth study of an Indian election campaign) and Die letzten Tage (about the last days of a refugee centre in Germany).

In 2007, he directed In Search of Gandhi as one of ten international filmmakers commissioned to make 52 min. films for the 'Why Democracy?' global television series, which was broadcast across 35 international television channels, including ZDF/Arte in Germany, BBC and BBC World (UK), Arte (France), Canal + (Spain), SBS (Australia), NHK (Japan) and SABC (South Africa).

Some of the venues and film festivals where his work has been shown are: Kino Arsenal, Berlin; Oberhausen International Short Film Festival and DOK-Leipzig in Germany; International Documentary Film Association (IDFA), Amsterdam; Festival International du Documentaire, Marseille; One World Human Rights Film Festival, Prague; the Asian Social Forum, Hyderabad; the World Social Forum, Mumbai; MIAAC and the Queens Museum of Art, New York.

Lalit Vachani teaches courses on the political documentary film, Hindu nationalism, media and politics, and documentary theory and production at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) at the University of Göttingen.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

There is a moment of rupture in 'Recasting Selves' that for me is the essence of the film.

In the choice of semester ending play, the CREST students make a seemingly counter-intuitive choice. Despite having been at the receiving end of caste prejudice most of their lives, they select the play that does *not* expose caste discrimination. They choose not to do the play on Rohith Vemula's suicide, despite its potential for a critique of caste politics. Instead they prefer to externalize systemic prejudice and bigotry on to the body of the 'Bangali' - the non-Keralite immigrant whose arrival allegedly constitutes a threat to the local population.

For Vinod Krishnan of CREST (also a main character in the film), this scene confirmed the unfortunate silences around caste that exist in Kerala.

But somewhat paradoxically, was this decision by the students not the logical outcome of the CREST program of 'recasting selves'? For perhaps the first time in their lives, many students spent time in an egalitarian, nurturing environment where they did not experience discrimination, and where they were able to interact with students from other caste groups.
In a few days, they would graduate from CREST and aspire for a level playing field in the corporate sector, where they might need to hide all vestiges of caste identity in the hope of receiving equal opportunity. In this context, was the decision to not perform the play on Rohith Vemula, caste atrocity and social exclusion a few days before graduation, quite so unusual?

Finally, what are the implications for the practice of a progressive Dalit politics, as increasing numbers of CREST graduates become part of the mainstream? In times to come, how will they view their past, and give back to their communities?

I hope that this film can contribute to opening up conversations around the silence, and the complexity of caste in India. And that it can provide insights for educational institutions and organizations like CREST, as they expand their work with Dalit and Adivasi students in India.