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Mamla Legal Hai - A Deeper Dive Into Classism

Netflix released its new series titled ‘Mamla Legal Hai’ that stars Nidhi Bisht, Naila Grrewal, Ravi Kishan, Anant Joshi, and more. The story revolves around a peculiar district court and its no less bizarre advocates. Throughout the series, an effort is made to highlight the privileged and posh attitude of the legacy lawyer, Ananya Shroff. Although humble and modest, a clear divide is noticed in her clothing, attitude, and even more so in her thinking. Where the female lawyers wear sarees and kurtis, Ananya is styled in expensive shirts, trousers and blazers throughout the series. This gives her an impression of being from a higher class, in addition to being more sophisticated and educated. The other lawyers wear what they can afford, and sarees in India is like sand in a desert - ever-present and neverending. This also makes them more approachable among the working-class clients who seek them. Her clothing may force people to perceive her as a lawyer who demands higher pay for services and beyond reach of those at Patparganj. Although no such indication is made in the show, the outward look can’t be ignored. 

As the show begins, Ananya enters in her Mercedes and is immediately mistaken to be a rich client with deep pockets. Even the court manager, Vishvas who has a childish crush on her deems her ‘unattainable’ or ‘out of reach’. He repeatedly emphasises her obvious privilege and talks about how someone who is higher in class could never be with him. In fact, in one episode, Vishvas’s wife-to-be is jealous of how close Ananya and Vishvas seem to be, and she asks him to prove that there are no romantic relations between the two. To prove this, Vishvas borrows Ananya’s luxury vehicle and shows it off to his father and fiance. He then asks his father to drive the car and take it for a round. After all, the keys are in hand and this is a golden opportunity that won’t present itself again. His father vehemently refuses and insists that their status is too low to risk taking the car out for a drive. He deems himself unworthy of driving the car. Using this as an example, Vishvas states that if someone of his ‘class’ can’t even drive an expensive car, then how would he ever be worthy of being involved with the owner of the car? He indirectly compares a car worth lakhs to a woman who seems so out of reach because she’s placed at a pedestal higher than those around her, all because of her money and privilege. 

While these things are important, they’re not the only thing that determines the value of a person. These seem rather superficial, do they not? Even more so when you realise that Ananya herself does not believe in this unjust system of classism. The pedestal at which she is placed is manufactured by those around her and she simply refuses to become a part of it and add to this unending problem. Another question arises - why are her belief systems so radically different from those at Patparganj? This question too is easily answered. Ananya is privileged, which means she’s sheltered. No one ever told her about this superior-inferior pyramid in a way that makes it seem like there are things she can’t do or problems she will have to face. She grew up rich, so she didn’t face problems those less unfortunate than she have been through. This isn’t to say that she’s ignorant or turning a blind eye. As someone who’s had it all, Ananya seeks to help others by striving towards a job as a legal aid. However, this too is a prerogative available to her due to her constant flow of money. At Patparganj, lawyers take up cases where they get money. Civil or Criminal. It’s a two-way street, where Ananya is carving a third way. Another reason is her exposure to culture away from the stereotypical mindset that runs rampant in India. As a Harvard graduate, Ananya gained a quality education that further proved that classism is a simple social construct to keep people where they are. She experienced a new culture where classism exists only as an abstract idea in the minds of a few hundred. She doesn’t see it as a ‘curse’ that traps people and sees it for what it is -  as a mindset that dictates them. 

In another instance, Sujata Negi, the queen of those with no chamber, takes Ananya under her wing and agrees to dole out cases to her, but charges a fee for the same. Idealistic, naive and progressive, Ananya identifies the illegal practice and shuts it down. She goes off independently, looking for clients based on merit. Soon, she realises no one wants a fresh out of law school lawyer to fight their case and comes back to Earth to take up soliciting for attestation of documents instead. She adapts to the culture around her and the invisible step is broken. 

A lawyer with a Harvard degree is at the same place as those without one. Her needle of legal and illegal gets a little blurred and yet, her class of being ‘qualified’ gets her a desk where senior lawyers don’t have one. Every lawyer at the district court has the same degree, albeit from different institutions. Shouldn’t their experience and skill account for more than her ‘mehengi degree’? Yet again the sense of classism clouds judgment and forces favour in the direction of those who have more of it than they know what to do. 

As much as we hate it, classism is a deep-rooted problem that cannot be eradicated as easily as it is engraved. It requires progressive mindsets and more effort on the part of those who realise that it is a myth. The barriers of class and caste cage those with potential because how could they ever dream so big? Class, which is just a five-letter word for money, privilege, and education rules the world and keeps the rich, richer. 

Nevertheless, we have to admit that sometimes class distinction exists for a reason. Ananya is more educated and perceptive than others at Patparganj due to her endless resources. It patently makes her appear a step higher than those around her. But she has these opportunities because of her pre-existing wealth. How many times have we seen this wealth being used the wrong way? How many times has class been perceived as the status of God? We continue to treat those with more money and power as special, they continue to retain power that keeps those with less than them stuck in quicksand. Stopping distinction and treating everyone the same way is the key to eradication. Let everyone start and end the same way; don’t let someone’s education be the reason they skip a few steps and soar. Don’t let a degree outweigh hard work and perseverance. Because degrees can be bought but determination is learned.

Stop deeming people unworthy because they might lack access to the many luxuries and stop equating human value with money, power, and influence. Equate it with skill, work, and experience. Class is an excuse for the ones in power to excuse their behaviour and be favourable. Change the narrative.

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