Cultural Arts Review: Dharm a Film on Religious Tolerance and Change

Posted on October 2, 2013 by

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The movie, Dharma, directed by Bhavna Talwar, shows the detailed life of a Hindu Brahmin named Pundit Chaturvedi who is completely submerged in religious violence between the Hindus and Muslims.  This movie puts forth the idea of religious tolerance.  The idea of religious tolerance is presented by showing the war between Hindus and Muslims during this movie.  Throughout the movie, there are multiple examples of news stations showing attacks either by Hindus on Muslims or vice versa.  This includes the battle in which the journalist following and learning from the Brahmin is killed.  The last scene in the movie shows Hindu attackers surrounding a Muslim man who is standing behind Brahmin Pundit.  Brahmin Pundit speaks to the Hindu attackers about what religion is and what it is not.  Brahmin Pundit argues that religion is not just scripture but is about our actions and deeds Therefore killing and murdering over religious differences is wrong and cannot be tolerated.  Killing for religious purposes is still murder and a great sin.

The Caste System also plays a large role in this movie right from the beginning.  Within the first ten minutes of the movie, we see an “untouchable” fall into the Brahmin.  The “untouchable” is then beaten while the Brahmin goes to purify himself.  We then see the emergence of the Caste System again when the baby is brought to Brahmin Pundit’s house.  The first response from the Brahmin is how dare you touch this baby and that the girl must bring the baby back to the mother because the Caste level of this baby is unknown.  Without knowing the level in which the baby is from, the Brahmin is not willing to take the chance of being associated with the baby.

This all fits together with the biggest theme from the movie in my eyes…which is change.  Early in the movie we hear Brahmin Pundit address change as it relates to the scripture. He states that the scriptures do not change therefore practices do not change.  We then see by the end of the movie the change that has occurred in Brahmin Pundit and how he uses that change to help his followers learn from their mistakes.  Brahmin Pundit has changed from not wanting to touch the “Muslim” boy, to risking his life during the invasion by the Hindus to make sure the boy is going to be safe.  The Brahmin puts aside all past views of the Caste System and how the boy correlates to the system.  He also mentions at the end of the movie that religion is more than devotion but is the deeds and actions that go along with each person.  This counteracts earlier in the film in which the Brahmin seems to believe that he was given knowledge of the scripture by Shiva and therefore did not need to rely on deeds of saving others like in the example of “untouchable” that is beaten for bumping into him.

Overall, this film gives a lot insight towards religious battles between Hindus and Muslims as well as all other religion denominations.  This also shows the directors idea of how to solve the conflicts which seems to be by tolerating others and acting as the scriptures are saying.  By this I mean that in most scriptures it is wrong to kill so why is it justified to kill for religious readings.  This was a very well made film that has changed my perspective and outlook onto religious tolerance and change.

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Posted in: Hinduism