Scheduled caste talents in Indian cinema
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Scheduled caste cineastes in Hindi-Urdu cinema
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Ethnicity tends to spark off bitter and vitriolic diatribes on the Internet. But Prime-Time Debate: 100 years of Bollywood but still no Dalit Representation in Indian Cinema | Your Take? (Babasaheb Ambedkar) is an almost-entirely sober examination of why there is ‘no Dalit Representation in Indian Cinema’ even a century after the first feature film was made.
Hemant Gedam wrote: ‘it is unfortunate though but thats the fact. Very little representation of dalits in bollywood. In last few generations it was difficult but atleast this or next generation people should consider this as a career option and make right efforts.’
It would indeed be disappointing if the scheduled castes were not represented in something as meritocratic (and audience- driven) as Filmistan (and its brother cinemas in non-Hindi languages, Cinema Nadu and Cinema Desam), especially in pop songs, which have been the miraasis’ domain for centuries. [Mirasi is a north Indian caste of folk-singers, with equivalents in every part of India.]
Sumedh Selkar suspected that ‘In indian cinema there are lot of people belongs to dalit community but they does not highlighted. In our industry their is lot of dalit actor but he changed his name. Pata nahi ki wo darte hai apni identity dikhane me kyuki woh be- shurm hai. [Why are they scared of revealing their identity? Are they shameless?]’
Indpaedia had a duty to investigate.
Happily, Indpaedia’s volunteers have found far more than a hundred SC cineastes and music stars in just the Hindi-Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi and Malayalam film industries. They discovered that the first Malayalam heroine was an SC, that a hugely respected SC actress had won National Best Actress awards in both Telugu and Tamil, and that a glamorous young, A-list Filmistan star whose mysterious death made her a near-icon was an SC.
And, above all, Ilayaraja, whom Indpaedia rates among the 5 greatest music directors of Indian cinema, seems to be an SC.
The immensely successful Daler Mehndi is a mere superstar in comparison. Nigam and Sukhwinder’s share of the male singing pie in Hindi-Urdu has been so big that in the USA it could invite anti-trust proceedings!
No, seriously, that is how immensely popular these stars (and Mehndi) are. And what it is left behind, after these three S.C. talents (and Pakistani singers) have chosen the best songs, is picked up by Mika Singh, Lembher Hussainpuri and Master Saleem.
The domination of SC talent in Hindi-Urdu-Punjabi popular (film) music is that total. Tamil film music was till recently ruled by Ilayaraja: now his sons are doing well. A film's music sales are a major cash cow for Filmistan, Cinema Nadu and Cinema Desam.
This is the exact opposite of saying 'still no Dalit Representation in Indian Cinema.'
Abhijeet Sawant-Winner of First Indian Idol : Chamar 
Amar Arshi – Punjabi Singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Amarjeet Mahey -Artist and Painter From UK. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Amrita Virk – Punjabi singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Anand Shinde, Milind Shinde Music directors. Popular and successful composers in many genres, including Bhim Geet. (Not to be confused with Filmistan’s Anand-Milind, who are the sons of Chitragupt Srivastav.)
Anil Biswas Highly successful music director and a power figure in the industry
Ashok Lokhande Actor ( Brother; TV serial Diya aur Baati) Mahar
Babu Mohan (Kasturi Babu Mohan Rao) – Telugu film comedian, was elected an MLA from Medak district’s Andole Constituency, and served as Social Welfare Minister in the TDP government: i) Mala: . ii) Mala:  iii) 
Balvir Boparai -Punjabi Singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Bhavatharini, Playback Singer, Tamil Films 
Bhujangy Group & Anari Sangeet – First UK Bhangra band (70’s). Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Bhulla Ram Chann- Punjabi Poet. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Birendra Paswan, a dialogue writer in Hindi and Bhojpuri films (including the big-budget Bhojpuri film, Ego Chumma De Da Raja Ji starring superstars Manoj Tiwari and Ravi Kishan) Chamaar-Today
Birendra: Bhojpuri films: Nautanki (2006/ writer); Najariya Kahe ke Ladavla (2003/ writer-director) 
Boyi Bheemanna: Telugu writer: Mala: 
Brahmanandham: Telugu and Tamil cineaste, comedy superstar. Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note) 
Charan Singh Safri – Punjabi Poet. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Cheran, Film Director and Actor Tamil. 
Chhabi Biswas: (1900-62) Aced in at least 264 films ‘He is the best remembered for his numerous roles as the quintessential aristocratic patriarch, [and] was himself the scion of a rich and cultured North Kolkata family.’ Was he an SC? He has been included by Chamaar-Today, from which the above quote has been taken.
Chirag Paswan was launched in 2011 as the male lead of Miley naa miley hum, a lavishly produced commercial Filmistan film.
Daler Mehndi: National Punjabi/ Hindi-Urdu pop superstar. Mirasi: .
Dev Diwana- Punjabi film Writer/Director/Actor. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Dev Jassal – Punjabi Poet. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Deva, Music Director, Tamil and South Indian Films. 
Dhanush: (born: Venkatesh Prabhu Kasthuri Raja) Important star in Tamil, had a nationwide superhit song in Indian English; starred in A-list Hindi-Urdu film; married into Tamil cinema’s first family. Caste: Paraiyar: i) , ii) SC:  iii) Shudra Exposed
Gangai Amaran, Director, Lyricist & Producer of Tamil Films 
Gauri Shinde ad-and feature- film director (English Vinglish). Zee Cine Awards 2013Best Debut Director; 19th Annual Colors Screen Awards 2013 Most Promising Debut Director She entered the biggest A+ league in 2016 when she got to direct Dear Zindagi starring superstar Shahrukh Khan. However, while the surname Shinde is used widely by Maharashtrian scheduled castes, it is also used by the ruling caste of Scindias. See also Chamaar-Today and ().
Gopal Paswan Character actor, Dushadh (Shararat), casting director (television serial, Bahubali), assistant director (Akarshan, Chirutha) 
Gopi: CSR Kingdom writes: ‘Kalyan Rao, a naxalite leader from dalit community, tried to promote his son as hero. But, he could not succeed and his attempts became highly controversial in his party.’ Mr Kalyan Rao ‘admitted that he had not taken his colleagues into confidence when he met the Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, and suggested resumption of dialogue with Naxal leaders… Mr. Kalyan Rao said Gopi could have produced a couple of films, including `Guerrilla', had he used his name. `Guerrilla' was abandoned halfway due to funds crunch. Gopi had not applied for a Rs. 40-lakh loan to complete the film as alleged.’  
Goutam Halder- Bengali film director 
Gunti Prasanth [pen name:Mala Palle]], Telugu poet: Mala: 
Gurmeet Kaur Bawa-Punjabi Singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Hans Raj Hans: A-list popular singer. Mirasi: .
Illaiyaraja (Isai Gnani Ilayaraja, born Gnanathesikan): Tamil composer, a towering figure in the world of Tamil popular music, with one neo-Western classical album. i) Parayar/ Adidravidar  ii) SC: 
Jassi Gill Punjabi singer and actor: Mazhabi 
Johnny Lever (Janumala John Prakasa Rao) – Filmistan comedian from Andhra Pradesh. Johnny Lever has received 13 Filmfare Awards nominations in Best Comedian Category, and has won the award twice. Between 1984 and 2012 he had acted in more than 225 films, all of them ‘commercial’ (i.e. good budget). i) Mala: . ii) Mala:  iii) SC: ; iv) 
Kadhal Bharath: Tamil cineaste, Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note) 
Kailash Kher – A plus list mystic-pop Singer: Chamar 
Kalabhavan Mani (Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu films): In 1999 he won the National Film Award and Kerala state film award for Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinne Njaanum.
Kanjibhai Rathod: Director since at least 1921. Indeed, he is widely accepted as the first successful director in Indian cinema. So successful was he that Rathod directed five of the 17 talkies made in 1931. In all he directed at least 76 films. Native village: Maroli, in south Gujarat. Made patriotic, Hindu mythological and detective films. Acted in "Shakuntala" (1920). Chamaar-Today Sub-caste not known. However, Rathod is a surname used by the Dusad SC community.
Karthik Raja, Music Director, Tamil Films 
Karunas, Actor. Tamil 
Kasthuri Raja, Film director. Tamil 
Kuldip Rasila – Punjabi singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Kusuma Dharmanna, Telugu poet (Maakoddu Nalla Dorathanam, meaning We dont want Black Leadership) 
Lakhwinder Lucky-Punjabi Singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Leena Manimekalai is a Filmmaker and actor based in Chennai. ‘She has nine documentary films and a feature film to her credit. Kanavupattarai is her publication house through which she has published 25 titles on world cinema and literature. Her production house named Touring Talkies has a stronghold [sic] in television production in South India. She had published Thirai, an alternative monthly film journal.’  About her caste she wrote on Twitter, ' Am a born shudra who believes in annihilation of caste & I have nowhere concealed these facts or information abt my background!...am born to a tamil professor &I dont have land holdings! I was married to a Dalit who owned & lost a company on his own hardwork!'
Lembher Hussainpuri-Punjabi Singer : Chamar 
Livingston, Actor. Tamil 
Madhavi (A-list actress) from Hyderabad. played the heroine role for 17 years in seven languages: Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Bengali, and Hindi. She was very popular among Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi film fields. She has acted in more than 300 films. National Award Winner: i) Mala: . ii) Mala: . ii) SC: 
Madhuraj Madhu from Buxar, Bihar - Has written dialogues for Bhojpuri films. Chamaar-Today
Manjeet Roopowalia- Punjabi Singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Manmohan Waris-Filmistan and Punjabi Singer: Chamar 
Master Saleem (son of Ustad Puran Shahkoti): Mirasi: .
Miss Pooja (original name: Gurinder Kaur Kainth): Punjabi singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
MK Thyagaraja Bhagavadhar- the first Tamil cinema Super Star, Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note): 
MN Rajam: Tamil cineaste, Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note) 
Mohan Rathore Bhojpuri singing star 
Muni Laal, actor, Hindi-Urdu films (23rd March 1931, Shaheed; Pranali) 
N. S. Krishnan ('Kalaivanar' Nagerkoyil Sudalaimuthu Krishnan) (1908-57): Tamil film comedian, drama artist, playback singer. Chamaar-Today
Nagraj Manjule: Caste: Wadar. Director and writer of the highest grossing Marathi film of all time.
Naramalli Sivaprasad: Telugu film actor and Member of Parliament. Chamaar-Today
P. K. Rosy (Rosamma) (1903-75) of Thayycaud: the heroine of Vigathakumaran, the first Malayalam film, 1928: A scheduled caste Christian labourer, perhaps a grass cutter. She married Kesava Pillai. 
P. S. Keerthana, Tamil Actress, National Award winner. 
Pali Detwalia-Punjabi singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Pa Ranjith wrote and directed the national blockbuster Kabali (2016). <<The Director Pa Ranjith has made three films in his career of which two, the recently released Rajinikanth film and Madras, have distinct Dalit rights overtones. But he doesn’t want to be viewed as a Dalit filmmaker. He made the films because he was affected by it, he adds. (Hindustan Times)
Parthiban (screen name: Ra Parthiepan), Tamil film actor, director, film producer and writer The first film that he directed (and acted in), Pudhiya Paathai (1989), won the National Award for Best Regional Film. i) Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note)  ii) SC: 
Parveen Barsi, Haryanvi singer (Chhora Chamar ka etc.), Chamar
Pooja (born Gurinder Kaur Kainth) Singer Ravidasia
Poonam Mehmi-Miss India UK also a well-known model in UK. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Rakhi Sawant was born as Neeru Bheda. She said in an interview, ‘I am not a Dalit. My mother is a Gujarati and father a Maharashtrian.’ Chamaar Today has included her in the list of SC talents.
Ram Laxman (real name: Vijay Patil), is a music director famous for the mega-hit songs that he composed for Maine pyar kiya and Hum aapke hain koun? Earlier he had composed music for many of Dada Kondke’s Marathi double entendre but hugely successful films. He is a Buddhist Mahar, and belongs to Untakhana, Nagpur (MS).
Ranjit Mani-Punjabi Singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Reema Kallingal, ‘it is said, is half Dalit and half Ezhava.’ Malayalam actress. 
Rupesh Kumar: Documentary filmmaker Chamaar-Today
Sabesh-Murali, Tamil Musical Duo. 
Sahotas Group: A-list music group of UK Run by Mukhtar Sahota and his Brothers. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Sanju RJ, Haryanvi rapper and singer, Chamar
Sant Ram Udassi – Punjabi Poet. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Santhanam: Tamil cineaste, Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note) 
Satabdi Roy Actress, director, teacher of acting and Member of Parliament. Won the Bengali Film Journalists' Award for best supporting actress for the film Debipaksha in 2005. Acted in around 140 films between 1986-2011. She has been included in this list of SC talents on the basis of her mention in Chamaar Today
Seema Biswas: Hindi-Urdu film actress from Assam. She has been included in this list on the basis of Chamaar Today
Selvaraghavan, Film Director. Tamil 
Shailendra (On the authority of Brij Khandelwal, The Times of India) Shailendra was one of the most respected and commercially successful film lyricists in the history of Indian cinema. He also directed and produced an arthouse film. Barring the great scheduled caste saint-poets, philosophers and reformers, without doubt (as measured by disc-sales, radio- requests and songs on the Top 16 charts of the time) Shailendra reached the houses of more Indians (and Pakistanis) than any other scheduled caste talent in history. He made his debut in 1947 and, though he died in 1966, his songs continued to figure in films released till the end of 1970 (Mera Naam Joker) and were in the top 16 charts till 1970, a 23-year career. In the 20th century in terms of ‘number of songs released on disc’ only two other Hindi-Urdu lyricists (Anand Bakshi and Majrooh Sultanpuri) were ahead of him.
Shankar -Malayalam actor. Dhobi: . According to Shudra Exposed, too, Shankar Panicker, Malayalam star of the 1980s, is a Shûdr(a). He was known as Oru Thalai Raagam Shankar (ஒரு தலை ராகம் சங்கர்) in Tamil films.
Shilpa Shinde: According to Shudra Exposed, major TV star Shilpa Shinde is from the cobbler caste.
Shradha Arya: A Delhiite who has worked in many Telugu films, some Tamil films, in Ram Gopal Varma's Hindi-Urdu Nishabd and as a model. 
Sivamani, National superstar-percussionist and musician 
Sonu Nigam - Filmistan singing superstar. Together with Sukhwinder Singh, he dominates male playback singing in Filmistan. Ravidassia/ Chamar: . However, a friend of Mr Nigam informed Indpaedia that his father is a Srivastav (Kayasth) and his mother a Uttarakhand Brahmin. ()
Srikanth Deva, Music Director, Tamil Films 
Stalin K, documentary filmmaker 
Sudam Waghmare, Hindi-Urdu film director (Ummeed, 2008) 
Sudeep is a major, A- list Kannada film star and plays lead roles. The actor belongs to the Valmiki Nayaka community, which is a scheduled tribe.
Sudesh Kumari – Punjabi singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
Sudhakar Betha ("Pichha kottudu sudhakar") is a popular film comedian who has acted inmore than 600 films in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. He produced several Telugu films, including the superhit Yamudiki Mogudu. He won the Nandi Awards twice for the films Subhakankshalu and Snehitulu. i) Mala: . ii) Mala: . iii) SC:  iv) SC: 
Sukanya: Tamil cineaste, Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note) 
Sukhwinder Singh- Filmistan singing superstar. Together with Sonu Nigam, he dominates male playback singing in Filmistan. Chamar 
Suresh Paswan, Award-winning audiographer, worked in over 50 Hindi-Urdu and other films. Best sound recordist award from Gujarat state for Paiso Mharo Parmeshwar 
Surinder Heera – Punjabi Singer. Ravidassia/ Chamar: .
SV Subbiah: Tamil cineaste, Vishwakarma caste (not yet a scheduled caste, see Note) 
Thol.Thirumavalavan: Tamil actor. 
Trisha Karmakar: TV actress, Hindi-Urdu. 
Uday Babu, son of Babu Mohan. He has been described as ‘the first Dalit hero in Tollywood’ 
Usha Jadhav: Best known for her role in the Marathi film Dhag (2012) for which she she won the national Best Actress Award at the 60th National Film Awards. 
Usha Rajak -Nepal film actress. Dhobi: 
Vadivelu: According to Shudra Exposed Tamil comedian and playback singer, Vadivelu is a Shûdr(a).
V.S.R Swamy: Famous cameraman. Shot the first colour film,First cinema scope Film and first 70mm film in Telugu 
Venkat Prabhu, Director, Tamil Films 
Vijaya Nirmala - Telugu actress, married to actor Krishna. Dhobi: 
Virendra Paswan Dialogue writer (Hindi and Bhojpuri films)Ravidasia
Wadali brothers: Mirasi: .
Yuvan Shankar Raja, Music Director, Tamil & Hindi Films 
Yuvraj Hans: Punjabi singer and actor: Mazhabi 
Note1: Vishwakarma is NOT yet a scheduled caste though a substantial section of the community has periodically sought and/ or been promised SC status (Indian Express)
Note 2: Filmistan is Indpaedia’s substitute for the slavish (but better known) expression, Bollywood.
Note 3: Indpaedia’s volunteers know nothing about the caste of any cineaste mentioned in this article—except that Chirag Paswan’s father is a leading SC politician. While researching, the volunteers learned that Mr Ram Vilas Paswan married ‘Reena Sharma a Punjabi Hindu from Amritsar.’ .
Similarly, every assertion about the caste of any cineaste made in this article is on the basis of the site(s) cited immediately after the assertion.
Indpaedia’s volunteers realise how notoriously inaccurate a lot of online information can be. Therefore, they have tried to cite only responsible sites and, wherever possible, more than one site for the same cineaste.
If despite all this caution anything written on this page is inaccurate, this may please be reported as a message to the Facebook community, Indpaedia.com. All information used will be gratefully acknowledged.
We are grateful for high quality inputs received from:
Ravidassia Vicky Sangrauli
All inputs used are independently verified by Indpaedia volunteers.
(The name of Ashok Shambharkar, the reader who told us about Ram Laxman, almost got lost because he wrote on the Timeline of our Facebook page. Please send only messages to our Facebook page, Indpaedia.com)
Scheduled caste talents in Indian cinema
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