Kakkoos, a Tamil documentary on manual scavenging which literally translates to ‘Toilet’ in English, was released on YouTube on 14 June 2017.
It was uploaded on the internet by its director – Divya Bharathi – after the filmmaker suffered huge losses in trying to bring it out on DVD and finally released it on YouTube for free viewing.
“We released the film on DVD but couldn’t keep up with the demand. Since we had limited manpower and financial constraints, and we were denied permission for public screening, we decided to release the documentary online,” said Divya, speaking to The Logical Indian.
This is the YouTube link to Kakkoos:
“This capitalistic government has given us YouTube – a medium to reach thousands at once. We decided to use this to our benefit and against the government intervention. Our main goal is to create a mass campaign against the banning of Kakkoos – a documentary which shows the true face of our country,” she added.
Kakkoos was shot is 25 districts across Tamil Nadu. It shows the miserable lives and working conditions of manual scavengers in the state.
Divya hails from Arupukkottai in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu. Her father was employed in a cotton mill in the area, and she grew up in the workers’ colony.
As a child, she remembers the power that the owner held over his employees and the way his word was held as law. Such capitalistic exploitation compelled her to become a socially driven person.
During her time as a social activist, Divya saw the death of a labourer due to torturous working conditions. Five-to-ten labourers die every day due to manual scavenging. The reality of this practice persuaded her to make the documentary Kakkoos.
The Logical Indian had interviewed Divya on March 2017 (read the full interview here) when she had spoken about the documentary which brings to screen the plight of the workers who are discriminated on the basis of their caste and gender.
As Kakkoos portrays a stinging truth about the society we live in – the continued practise of manual scavenging even though it’s banned in India since 1993 under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act – it was met with strong oppositions.
But Divya didn’t hesitate to point a finger at the government and neither did her film, which received critical acclaim from a select audience but was forbidden to release in most Indian states.
“The police would send us notices stating that the screening of the film would disrupt law and order in the area,” said Divya.
“The Nagercoil police termed me an ‘anti-social’ element and a ‘Naxalite’. In my hometown, Madurai, we tried to screen the documentary four times but were always blocked by the police. Even the distribution of DVDs was claimed to be an offence in the city. The same thing happened in Coimbatore. The Tamil Nadu intelligence squad, Q branch and local police authorities would always prevent the screening. In Delhi too we tried to release the documentary – six screenings were arranged – but the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special branch was following us from day one and interrupting public viewing in all possible ways. A screening in the official state mission house of the government of Kerala in New Delhi was also banned as someone complained that Kakkoos was disrupting law and order. ” she continued.
Even though the government did not directly intervene, Divya alleges that both the state and the centre was against Kakkoos.
“We didn’t apply for a Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certificate as we believed that a film like Kakkoos should not be censored. As per our constitution, we have the freedom of expression. The government was wrong to prevent the public screening of the documentary,” said Divya.
The Logical Indian community urges people to watch Kakkoos which has been made after months of hard work. The documentary unapologetically shows the humanisation of manual scavengers in the 21st century. We request everyone to please watch and share Kakkoos as a meaningful and radical act. If even one person invites their neighbours over for its screening and a potluck dinner, ten other people will be made aware of the cruel practice of manual scavenging which continues to plague the Indian society.