The “Subaltern” Will Speak: Investigating Portrayals in the Acclaimed OTT Series of India and Pakistan

The “Subaltern” Will Speak: Investigating Portrayals in the Acclaimed OTT Series of India and Pakistan

Copyright: © 2024 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-3526-0.ch001
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Popular culture reinforces dominant ideologies, maintaining existing power structures by normalizing specific beliefs and values. This results in the marginalization of certain social groups and distorted media representations. However, resistance movements and counter-narratives challenge these norms, particularly in postcolonial contexts where the concept of the 'subaltern' is prominent. The expansion of OTT platforms in India and Pakistan has stimulated conversations on sensitive topics and disrupted conventional entertainment. OTT series employ subaltern characters to shed light on the challenges, fostering a sense of empathy. India and Pakistan, despite their differences, share cultural similarities. This study compares the portrayal of 'subalterns' in both nations, analyzing the highly rated Indian web series, 'Dahaad,' and Pakistani series, 'Churails.' Guided by Gayatri Spivak's subaltern theory, the study assesses how these OTT series, whether fully or partially embracing this theory, contribute to equitable depictions of marginalized communities and enduring social change.
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Digital era has ushered a significant revolution, reshaping how stories are created and experienced. The emergence of Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms, offering a wide range of content, has not only made the entertainment industry more accessible but has also provided subtle ground for exploring intricate social and cultural narratives (Santhanam, 2020). Primarily in case of India and Pakistan, it has been largely witnessed that the digital realm has given voice to stories that were previously sidelined or neglected by mainstream media (Roy, 2014). India and Pakistan, neighbouring nations with intertwined histories, have produced a wealth of cultural content over the years, reflecting their diverse societies. While traditional cinema and television have played significant roles in shaping cultural narratives, the advent of OTT platforms has broken away from conventional constraints. This newfound freedom not only fosters creative experimentation but also opens doors to discussions that were previously considered taboo or politically sensitive (Bohra, 2021).

Globalization has fostered the proliferation of new media technologies, transforming the way information and entertainment are disseminated worldwide. Over-the-top (OTT) platforms epitomize this correlation by leveraging digital technology and the internet to transcend geographical boundaries. They enable a global audience to access a diverse array of content, reshaping traditional media consumption patterns and illustrating how the convergence of globalization and new media technology has revolutionized the media landscape (Tamandehrou & Khan, 2015). Further, a significant surge in internet usage and smartphone adoption in both the countries have made digital platforms more accessible than ever before (Shehzad, 2017). OTT platforms has brought about a revolution in how people consume entertainment, offering the convenience of accessing content while transcending geographical and temporal boundaries. In India, platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, among others, have not only made international content readily available but have also fostered the growth of regional content in numerous languages (Tiwari, 2023). This diversification of narratives has allowed for the exploration of themes deeply rooted in specific cultural contexts. Similarly, Pakistan has witnessed the rise of platforms like iFlix and ZEE5, tailored to local audiences and showcasing Pakistani content (Sharma, 2021). This digital transformation has provided storytellers with a platform to address a broader spectrum of issues, including those that impact marginalized communities.

Amidst this ever-evolving landscape, a thought-provoking inquiry emerges: how do highly regarded OTT series depict the experiences of marginalized communities? In many ways, the portrayal of marginalized voices in OTT series mirrors the broader discourse on representation, inclusion, and diversity. It reflects how societies perceive themselves and others, carrying profound implications for social change and mutual understanding (Ghosh, 2023). In this research, the researchers embark on a journey through the digital narratives of India and Pakistan, aiming to uncover the subtleties, challenges, and achievements within the stories of the marginalized.

Narratives possess a unique ability to engage, provoke, and resonate with audiences. In the realm of OTT series, storytelling takes centre stage, and the way marginalized voices are portrayed can significantly influence viewers’ perceptions and empathy toward these communities. It is within this narrative power that researchers begin their exploration. The portrayal of marginalized voices in OTT series encompasses a wide range of themes and topics, including narratives related to caste discrimination, gender inequality, religious tensions, socioeconomic disparities, gender rights, and more. These narratives may draw inspiration from real-life events or be entirely fictional, but their resonance with the lived experiences of marginalized communities is what makes them compelling and important. These stories provide a platform for marginalized voices to be heard, challenge stereotypes, and contribute to social awareness and change.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Subaltern: Subaltern refers to those who are socially, politically, and culturally marginalized, often belonging to lower socio-economic classes and facing various forms of discrimination. This includes but is not limited to issues related to caste, gender, race, and ethnicity. The subaltern often lacks agency within dominant power structures and their voices are frequently silenced or ignored.

Post-structuralism: Post-structuralism, arising in the 1960s and 1970s, is a philosophical and humanities movement challenging structuralism. It questions established notions about language, texts, and social sciences, promoting diverse interpretations and perspectives.

Stereotypes: Stereotypes are widely held and oversimplified beliefs or ideas about a particular group of people or things. These generalized perceptions often oversimplify the diversity within a group and can lead to unfair judgments or expectations based on preconceived notions rather than individual characteristics. Stereotypes can be based on various factors such as race, gender, nationality, or other social categories.

Societal Dichotomy: It refers to a division or binary distinction within a society, often characterized by contrasting elements, categories, or groups. This division can manifest in various aspects of social life, such as gender roles, economic classes, cultural identities, or other polarized constructs. Societal dichotomies contribute to the formation of dualistic perspectives, reinforcing distinctions between different segments of the population. These divisions may lead to the establishment of hierarchies and unequal power dynamics, shaping social interactions, norms, and structures within a given community or society.

Colonialism: Colonialism denotes the domination of one group of individuals by another, usually for the purposes of economic, political, and cultural control. This historical and social phenomenon has had far-reaching consequences, extending over centuries and across various continents.

Hegemony: Hegemony, as defined by Antonio Gramsci, refers to the dominance or leadership of one social group over others, achieved not solely through force but by the shaping of consent through cultural and ideological means. Gramsci’s concept emphasizes the role of cultural institutions and intellectual activities in maintaining social control.

Over-the-Top (OTT): ‘OTT’ stands for ‘Over-the-Top,’ referring to content and services delivered directly over the internet, bypassing traditional cable or satellite providers. OTT platforms distribute streaming media, including movies, TV shows, and other video content, to viewers through internet connections. Popular OTT platforms include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, and many others. The term ‘Over-the-Top’ suggests that these services go over the top of traditional distribution methods, allowing users to access content on various devices, such as smart TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones, without the need for a traditional cable or satellite subscription.

Historiography: Historiography refers to the study of how history is written, and the methods, interpretations, and perspectives employed by historians. It involves the analysis of historical writings, the evolution of historical methodologies, and the examination of different schools of thought within the discipline of history. Historiography aims to understand the ways in which historical narratives are constructed, shaped, and influenced by the cultural, social, and political contexts in which historians operate. It provides insights into the changing nature of historical inquiry over time and highlights the diversity of approaches in interpreting and representing the past.

Postmodernism: Postmodernism is a broad cultural, artistic, and intellectual movement that emerged in the mid-20 th century as a response to and rejection of certain aspects of modernism. It is characterized by skepticism towards grand narratives, it questions authority, emphasizes individualism, and recognizes subjective knowledge, influencing diverse fields.

Discourse: Discourse refers to a communication system involving language and symbols for conveying knowledge, ideas, and cultural practices. It encompasses spoken and written forms, shaping societal understanding. Discourse analysis in academia explores language structures, patterns, and power dynamics.

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