Graduate student looks at role of India’s ‘untouchables’ in film

Prashant Kadam, 35, a graduate student in Cinema & Media Studies at York, is working on a thesis about the visual representation of the Dalits in popular Hindi cinema, wrote the Toronto Star June 22, in its Deep Thoughts column.

Dalit refers to an outcast class of "untouchables" under the Hindu caste system in India, wrote the Star. Even though the Indian constitution forbids discrimination along caste lines, it still exists, especially in modern cinema, a huge business in India. Nearly 200 Hindi-language films are made each year in India and the 160 million Dalits are sorely under-represented. When they do appear, they are usually cast as victims or stereotyped as uneducated, rebellious and violent.

"There’s a tendency to portray them as physically handicapped at times even. It’s how filmmakers perceive them and how society still perceives them," Kadam says.

After his master’s degree, Kadam wants to expand his study as part of a PhD thesis. He hopes by then Dalits will portray themselves in their own films in the same way filmmaker Spike Lee does with the black experience in North America.

Doctor shortage is easing, York survey finds

One million Ontarians still don’t have a family doctor despite government efforts to ease the shortage of physicians, a new survey suggests, wrote the Toronto Star June 22. The survey, conducted by the York University Institute for Social Research, found that an additional 500,000 Ontarians have obtained their own doctor since the Liberals came to power in 2003, when an estimated 1.3 million residents didn’t have a physician, said George Smitherman, Ontario health minister. The survey was based on phone interviews with 2,100 Ontarians this spring and on data from Statistics Canada, the health ministry said.

Reefer madness

Freedom of speech and good judgment often come into conflict; it’s what keeps ethicists busy (But We Didn’t Inhale – letters, June 21), wrote Irwin Silverman, York professor emeritus of psychology, in a letter to The Globe and Mail June 22. It’s true that evidence on the adverse effects of marijuana is meagre, but that only means that, to date, it hasn’t been proved harmful, not that it’s harmless. Meantime, there’s sound evidence that the brain continues to mature into late adolescence; hence, it would be extremely poor judgment to encourage high-school students to experiment with a habit-forming, mind-altering drug.

Given his age, I can understand Kieran King’s naive passion for truth (Free Speech Goes Up In Smoke At School – front page, June 20), but Mom’s position eludes me. Many of us who were parents of teens during the ’70s and ’80s "lived in the culture" but were nevertheless grateful the schools were scaring the bejeebers out of our kids about drugs. Yes, it was hypocrisy and, yes, it was censorship, but all of that notwithstanding, it was good judgment.

How leaders can avoid the big hip check

Success is never enough. Even at the pinnacle of your career, you need to continue to be clear about what’s expected of you and shore up your support to avoid being toppled, wrote The Globe and Mail June 22. That’s one of the lessons from this week’s stunning leadership change by the Ottawa Senators, career experts say.

"Leaders can forget that, even if you are at the senior level in an organization, you are still an employee and need to understand and meet the priorities of the board or the owners," says Stephen Friedman, a faculty instructor in management at York’s Schulich School of Business and principal of Stephen Friedman Executive Coaching in Toronto.

Loblaw’s Weston-as-pitchman strategy poses some risks, says Middleton

The youthful heir to one of Canada’s largest fortunes is about to become the public face of Loblaw Cos. Ltd., wrote the Toronto Star June 22. Galen G. Weston, whose family controls the Loblaw chain of supermarkets, is to begin appearing in television ads for the stores starting July 2, according to sources close to the company.

The strategy poses some risk, said Alan Middleton, professor of marketing in York’s Schulich School of Business. Only a few companies have successfully used a senior executive to connect with customers, the Dave Nichol era at Loblaw being one of example, Middleton said. It works best when the consumer feels the executive represents their interests, Middleton said.

Weston, whose upbringing is marked by wealth, privilege and close personal friendships with members of the British royal family, is a far different character in many Canadians’ minds, Middleton said.

On air

  • Marshall Rice, professor of marketing in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about a survey he conducted on stuttering, on Wingham’s CKNX-AM radio June 21.

  • York student Felisa Morrisson, an organizer of Pride Week in Toronto, spoke on Canoe Live TV June 21.

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the potential impact of a possible merger Canada’s two largest telephone companies, BCE and Telus, on CTV NewsNet June 21.