From the good old days of NS Krishnan and M Karunanidhi to contemporary cinema by comedian Vivek and director Pa Ranjith, which questions the remnants of absolute caste rule, the genre has crossed the boundaries of art and boldly spoken politics and social science with envious authority .
While NSK used tirukkural to expose the evils of the Varna system in order to expose it in his films, Karunanidhi overlooked euphemisms and took casteism by the neck. âThe whole world is in this little book. Mirror shows the dirt in the face, Tirukkural is a mirror that shows the dirt in the head. A copy of it should be in every household, âNSK said in the film Panam (Money – 1952).
Karunanidhi took a more direct approach in his magnum Opus Parasakthi, which is and is considered a turning point in Tamil cinema. âAmbal entha kaalathiley pesinal. Athu pesaathu. Athu kal. (When did Ambal (God) speak? It won’t. It’s a stone) âwere the immortal lines from Sivaji Starr (debut) Parasakthi in 1952, which marked a seismic shift from spirituality to atheism.
The court scene dialogue, celebrated for its linguistic splendor, which criticized the crap in Tamil society of the early 20th century and celebrated the proletariat, later became the benchmark for actors. The atheistic and rationalistic principles that Karunanidhi immortalized through Parasakthi were in second place, if not surpassed, two years later when MR Radha translated his hit drama Ratha Kanneer into the film, which again shocked the tinsel world because of it his daring dissemination of the rationalism and anti-caste principles of the Dravidian movement right on the screen.
Although Kannadasan’s works had a political undertone, none sparked a cultural revolution as the wonders of the Dravidian movement did through cinema. Chandrababu, MGR and SS Rajendran were some of the willing participants in improvising cinema for socio-cultural transformation in the 1950s, 1960s.
CN Annadurai, another former CM, is another politician and playwright without whom a study of social justice in Tamil cinema and drama would be incomplete.
It was Anna who introduced Velaikaari (servant), Or Iravu (one night) and Thookumedai (on the gallows) to the ordinary Tamil audience. Anna’s Sorgavasal (1954), a critique of Godmen, was another notable film that sparked a frenzy among Conservatives at the time.
Even a stereotypical director like Ramanarayanan did his part in sociopolitical propaganda by preaching the virtues of socialism in Vijayakanth-Starr’s “Sivappu Malli” (1981), another politically sensitive film that drew sufficient attention from the censors.
Amaithi Padai fame Manivannan is another filmmaker belonging to the rationalist school of thought. A left-wing Manivannan who directed Karunanidhi penned by Paalaivana Rojakkal did not mind showing his predilection for Periyar’s self-respect and anti-caste ideology in many film dialogues. The sarcastic exchange between Manivannan and Sathyaraj in Amaithipadai is a strong example of this. When a submissive Manivannan asks who invented the caste, Sathyaraj, who plays an MLA, says, âMandaram otharavanga kandu puduchanga. Manthirimaar kettiya puduchutaanga (singing priests invented it, clergymen clung to it), âto briefly trace the origin and preservation of the caste.
K. Balachander, who improvised several works by the writer Jayakanthan, and K Bharathiraja, who exposed caste in his Vetham Puthithu, also deserve special mention in Kollywood’s treatment of social justice and caste. At the beginning of the new millennium and early 21st, the nickname Chinna Kalaivanar (NSK).
After a period of doldrums, until the second decade of the 21st âIf we have money or land, they will snatch it from us. But education can never take away from us. So, learn, âVetrimaran thundered through Dhanush in the blockbuster film Asuran, a celebration of the Dalit resistance that caused a stir across the state. While Maari Selvaraj’s Pariyerum Perumal emphasized educational advancement to defy the caste, Sarpatta Parambarai was the Dalit’s latest comment on caste oppression on Pa Ranjith’s screen.
Sahitya Akademi award-winning author Imayam traces the link between social justice and cinema on Parasakthi and says; âDMK was a propaganda movement. Debate, newspapers, theater and cinema were used as campaign tools by the writers of the Dravidian movement. Art was not important to them. They didn’t use the medium for fame or money. They did it to popularize their ideology. At a time when people were ostracized and urged not to learn, these writers brought lay people on stage and challenged people to learn. Her work was a criticism of her society. They successfully broke the caste hegemony and conquered power. “
The Sahitya Akademi winner complained that the treatment of social justice has become a mere trend that hasn’t been seen in Rajinikanth or Kamal films, saying, âWomen in contemporary cinema, unlike the Dravidians, have been largely mere bare Glam puppets and item song dancers reduced cinema, which was an extension of a knowledge movement. You cannot alienate the Dravidian movement from TN politics or cinema or any other field. It will remain intertwined forever. “