There has at all times been a long-lasting marital relationship between the Tamil celluloid business and Dravidian politics. Cinema has been the umbilical wire of Dravidian events for mobilisation and political propaganda. Many leaders and Chief Ministers have cultivated voting residents based mostly on their photos from the celluloid world. As Tamil movie historian Thodore Baskaran mentioned, movies are an important a part of mass campaigns by political events.
The main focus of Dravidian events in its preliminary days have been on non-Brahmin actions, self-respect, democracy and equality. Despite the fact that Tamil movies handled many comparable subjects associated to social reforms, the caste battle between non-Brahmins and Dalits was but to be totally explored in depth. The latest film Maamannan was one such vital try in critically evaluating the place of Dalits inside dominant Dravidian political events.
A mirrored image of present events?
Mari Selvaraj’s third film Maamannan has acquired many constructive evaluations and generated a multi-layered dialogue on intra-party dialectics on casteism. The protagonists of the movie — specifically Vadivelu as Maamanan, Udhayanidhi Stalin as Athiveeran, Keerti Suresh as Leela and Fahadh Fazil as Rathnavelu — painting the target situation of casteism inside Dravidian events in Tamil Nadu. It lays naked the weak spot of Dravidian events in formulating a path in the direction of annihilation of caste or on the very least eradicating the observe of untouchability amongst their leaders and cadres by way of ideological orientation.
The film has generated debate and dialogue among the many public in addition to in political circles. It unravels the hidden reality about Dravidian get together leaders’ remedy in the direction of their colleagues who belong to the Dalit neighborhood. Although there have been narratives about this actuality in a couple of Tamil literary fictions, significantly by writers equivalent to Imayam, Perumal Murugan, Sivagami and others, this film has opened up such discussions among the many public. That is, certainly, the foremost success of the film.
Some have recognized the film with the expertise of former Meeting Speaker P. Dhanapal of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) get together, whereas in some others the film invoked recollections of how Thol. Thirumavalavan, Member of Parliament and President of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), was restricted from coming into sure villages within the Chidambaram constituency from the place he contested the Lok Sabha elections. Moreover, some are even speculating whether or not the primary caste Hindu character within the film is a senior chief of the AIADMK.
Sure conditions within the film are poignantly depicted by way of dialogue such because the helplessness of Maamannan with respect to his caste Hindu mentor Salem Sundaram. Later, the heated argument between Rathnavelu and Athiveeran about sitting at par with one another turns into an assertion of self-respect within the face of continued hegemonic caste practices. Rathnavelu tells Athiveeran that the explanation why he provided him a seat to sit down together with him is due to his politics (arasiyal) whereas the identical supply is just not prolonged to Athiveeran’s father as a result of his personal dominant caste Hindu identification (adayalam). It’s uncommon for Tamil cinema to indicate so daringly such a sequence which showcases the on a regular basis nature of caste politics. Equally, the film holds conversations about reserved constituencies, Dalit political representatives and the way and why caste Hindu leaders make investments and groom Dalit leaders to regulate Dalit self-assertion. The director and the actors deserve our appreciation for insistently depicting bare caste politics in business cinema.
The movie examines how for the sake of ‘caste delight’, casteist Hindu leaders will go to any extent by way of violence and even homicide. These situations remind the viewers of the protracted on-going caste killings within the State. Moreover, Mari Selvaraj captures the politics of identify calling in a casteist society. He exposes how fellow caste Hindu leaders tackle Dalit chief Maamannan as Maanu that means soil, (in a derogatory method) by cloaking it beneath the pretence of affection. Solely his son, Athiveeran, calls him by his full identify.
The depiction of girls on this film can be perceptive. Notably, the eyes of Maamannan’s spouse, Veerayi and Rathnavelu’s spouse, Jothi converse volumes.
Caste within the Kongu area
Prior to now, a couple of motion pictures like Muthal Vasantham, Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi and Chinna Gounder have portrayed the casteism of western Tamil Nadu. These motion pictures have been both satirical or glorified the feudal system prevailing within the Kongu area. In truth, not like different areas — south or north of Tamil Nadu — the western area has caste fanatics, who’re energetic exterior the area of politics in different spheres. It’s well-known that caste Hindus maintain a monopoly over possession of land, companies, academic establishments and authorities positions together with huge political energy on this area. The disparity between the caste Hindus and Dalits is big and difficult them is just not straightforward. In truth, the Kongu area is the epitome of caste Hindu supremacy.
Moreover, Salem, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Erode, Karur and Kovai are identified for its numerous residential personal academic establishments largely owned by caste Hindus, which Perumal Muragan as soon as known as “poultry faculties”. Due to this fact, it’s no thriller why the director made the central battle round free teaching centres and personal business establishments. The rift begins when Leela and her mates begin working a free teaching centre for poor college students which is seen as detrimental to personal business establishments.
Despite the fact that numerous researchers have explored the place of Dalits inside Dravidian events and the sort of discrimination they face, the movie medium has not explored this area to its full potential. As Hugo Gorringe has highlighted, in his guide Untouchable Residents: Dalits Actions and Democratization in Tamil Nadu, land reforms and different social reforms of the 1960s primarily benefited the intermediate caste.
The continuation of spatial segregation within the type of cheris (slums), denying entry to social spheres like temples, crematorium, land and different public amenities nonetheless proceed with out concrete intervention. Gorringe highlights that within the 2001 elections, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) cadres stayed away from supporting the Dalit Panther of India get together on the floor stage regardless that it stood beneath the DMK image.
Eminent Dravidian politics professional the late M. S. S. Pandian famous that Dalits in Tamil Nadu contemplate DMK politicians as individuals who betrayed them. Maamannan totally exposes this political scuffle between the caste Hindus and Dalits inside the get together.
A ray of hope
The film additionally registers constructive messages. Dalits ought to come out of their concern psychosis and submissive perspective. They need to study to withstand indignity by upholding self-respect. For self-defence, they need to study martial artwork and self-discipline.
Moreover, the film is ready to drive house the purpose that regardless of prevalence of caste rigidity, there’s nonetheless hope. They’re individuals who overcome such inflexible boundaries and help real management which ends up in the victory of Maamannan amid all hindrances. The film exhibits that there’s nonetheless house and scope to advertise a radically totally different sort of politics for the long run.
The political inheritor of DMK taking part in the protagonist position raises hope that the acknowledgement of caste-based discrimination inside Dravidian politics will result in extra interventions in reaffirming the founding ideas of equality and justice inside the Dravidian motion. However it’s not really easy to convey out such a radical reform inside Dravidian events. The movie has saved the hope alive, however realising it will likely be an arduous journey.
C. Lakshmanan is retd. Affiliate Professor on the Madras Institute of Growth Research and Convenor, Dalit Mental Collective, and Venkatanarayanan S. teaches at Christ College, Bengaluru