Accepted Paper:

'Please Don't Beat Me, Sir!'  


Shashwati Talukdar (Four Nine and a Half Pictures)
P. Kerim Friedman (National Dong Hwa University)

Paper short abstract:

Indian society calls them 'born criminals.' They call themselves 'born actors.' And they are fighting back — against police brutality, discrimination and history.

Paper long abstract:

'Please Don't Beat Me Sir' is set in a ghetto in Western India. It's about Budhan Theatre, a group of young Chhara Tribals who are considered "born criminals."

In 2003 Dakxin, a director and playwright, was arrested on false charges. We started documenting his case. We were concerned because the Chharas are regularly brutalized by the Police. The documentary evolved from that initiative.

Dakxin and his friend Roxy became our guides into why the Chhara are so reviled. They told us how the Chhara were notified as "born criminals" by the British colonial government in 1871, and how entire families were incarcerated in "soft" concentration camps.

The British are long gone, but their legacy remains. Despite being well-educated, nobody will employ a Chhara, forcing them into a life of crime, twenty percent of the Chhara work as thieves, and sixty percent brew illicit liquor. And so the vicious cycle continues. Their identity as criminals has been internalized by many Chhara as well. Dakxin's own grandmother laments, "Not a single grandchild is a thief—they are all useless."

But theater allows young Chharas to break this vicious cycle. We see theater used as a form of non-violent protest against police brutality. We see theater being used to challenge traditional roles within the community. And we see how theater gives the young actors an alternative vision of their future. 'Please Don't Beat Me, Sir!' is, above all, a film about the transformative power of art.

75 min.

(subtitles in English. German, French, Bulgarian, Arabic, Chinese and Swedish are forthcoming)

Premiered at Busan International Film Festival, 2011

Awarded Jean Rouch Award for Collaborative Filmmaking, Society of Visual Anthropology, Montreal, November 2011

Distribution: Four Nine and a Half Pictures, Inc.

Panel W134
Film programme