Pankaj Jha: Even the film industry has its own caste system

Mumbai (IANS)┬áVeteran actor Pankaj Jha, who played a pivotal part in the web series ‘Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi’, which addressed the issues of casteism and discrimination in our society, says the process of discrimination starts from the classroom.

In a conversation with IANS, Jha said: “You see, discrimination is not based only on caste, gender or race. It starts from very small things that children get exposed to, in their classroom and encouraged by their parents; it therefore gets normalised.”

Elaborating on this point, Jha said: “When a student scores good marks in the class, he becomes the favourite of his parents and teacher. Such students become popular and famous and get all the attention. Students who are comparatively not so studious in class, get ignored. So the earliest discrimination start from there — it expresses itself in favouritism, power of popularity and fitting into a set pattern.”

Being different, Jha pointed out, did not mean being inferior. “That is something we do not teach our children,” he pointed out. “The seed that gets planted because of such upbringing, grows into a tree and society has to then deal with the result. The conversation on equality therefore remains just that — all talk and does not go beyond.”

Pankaj has appeared in films such as ‘Black Friday’, ‘Gulaal’, ‘Chameli’ and ‘Anwar’, among many others.

The story of the web series revolves around the journey of a young man named Nirmal Pathak, who comes back to his village in search of his roots and discovers the cause of his father’s disappearance. Jha plays the character of Makhanlal, who believes in the caste system and practises it.

When probed about the classism in the entertainment industry, Jha said: “Of course, the entire ballgame of stardom is all about maintaining a hierarchy. You see the problem lies in mixing two things up — popularity and talent. Whether it is a film or a show, based on how much money it earns, an actor becomes popular. But how does popularity have any relation with talent? Also, popularity is counted as success and people around you respect you only if you are successful.”

Jha concluded by giving the example of Irrfan Khan. “He was a magical actor from the beginning, so why did it take the industry 15 years to recognise his magic? Our film industry is also a reflection of our society, an untold caste system exists here as well,” Jha said.

‘Nirmal Pathak Ki Ghar Wapsi’, streaming on SonyLIV, has been directed by Rahul Pandey and Satish Nair, and also features Vaibhav Tatwawadi, Alka Amin, Vineet Kumar and Garima Vikrant Singh.

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