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Taste of caste – Friday Spl. article by Naveen

Soon after Kamal Haasan announced the sequel to his hit 1992 film ‘Thevar Magan’, Puthiya Thamizhagam leader Krishnaswamy warned the actor-filmmaker-politician against using the proposed title ‘Thevar Magan 2’ and stated that ‘Thevar Magan’ itself had caused a big problem for the members of Devendrakula Vellalar community in 1993.
Urging Kamal to follow his ‘centrist’ political point of view, Krishnaswamy wanted him to name the film ‘Devendirar Magan’ this time around. “If you really want to follow ‘centrist’ policies, you should name the film ‘Devendirar Magan’ based on a community that is fighting to reclaim its identity,” he said.
Tamil cinema is not new to films with caste based titles and themes right from black and white days. This week, takes a look at such movies.
‘Chinna Gounder’ is a 1992 Tamil drama film directed by R V Udayakumar and starring Vijayakanth, Sukanya, Manorama, Goundamani, Senthil and Vadivelu. This film was remade into Telugu as ‘Chinnarayudu’ with Venkatesh and Vijayashanti in the lead. It was also remade in Kannada as ‘Chikkejamanru’ with Ravichandran and Gautami. The film completed a 100-day run.
The film was entirely shot at Sethumadai near Pollachi. Versatile actress Manoramma had performed a comical role with big protruding teeth. A comedy scene were Goundamani and Senthil perform along with Manoramma is unforgettable. Another classic scene where the male protagonist spins a top on the female protagonist’s navel is an all new idea of that time.
Though casteism was not out in open in ‘Kabali’ and ‘Kaala’, Dalit politics was the underlying theme of both films starring superstar Rajinikanth and directed by Pa Ranjith.
Kabali’s plot concerns the gang war between Kabaleeswaran (played by Rajinikanth) and Tony Lee (portrayed by Winston Chao). Radhika Apte, Dhansika, Dinesh Ravi, Kalaiyarasan, and John Vijay also star in pivotal roles. The film produced by Kalaipuli S Thanu had music by Santhosh Narayanan.
‘Kaala’ was about a leader of Tamils in Mumbai who fights for their rights. The film was also dubbed into Telugu and released as ‘Kaala’ and in Hindi as ‘Kaala Karikalan’. It is the first Indian film ever to be released in Saudi Arabia.
In Mumbai, the people who had migrated from Tamil Nadu are living in the slum of Dharavi. Politician Hari Dhadha tries to evict the people and seize their land, but he is opposed by Kaala.
‘Vedham Puthithu’ (1987), starring Sathyaraj and Amala was written by K Kannan and directed by Bharathiraja. Charuhasan, Saritha, Raja and ‘Nizhalgal’ Ravi played supporting roles in the movie.
The film highlights some of the issues caused by the caste system. The film’s narrative was seamless and starred Sathyaraj as Balu Thevar. It contains some of Bharathiraja’s trademark directorial touches as well as a lot of path breaking scenes, along with Kannan’s powerful dialogues.
This was considered the last film MGR watched, before his death. The story revolves around Balu Thevar (Sathyaraj) and Saritha who live in a village and belong to a land-owning warrior caste (Thevar), held lower in the Vedic caste system hierarchy than Brahmins.
‘Idhu Namma Aaalu’ is a 1988 film written by K. Bhagyaraj and directed by writer Balakumaran. It has Shobana as heroine. Gopalsamy (Bhagyaraj), a poor graduate of Bachelor of Arts, travels to the city in order to financially provide for his mother’s eye surgery.
Being unable to meet both ends meet, he encounters a Brahmin priest and food seller that employs young men forging their identity in order to deceive his customers. The priest obliges Gopal to impersonate a Brahmin and sell food in the neighboring agraharam.
Being a non-Brahmin Gopal finds it morally reprehensible to wear the sacred thread. Being forced in the circumstances to put on the Brahman identity, how he handles things forms the rest of the story.
‘Pariyerum Perumal’ talks about Dalit politics and is directed by Mari Selvaraj. Produced by Pa Ranjith, the film stars Kathir and Anandhi in the leading roles with Yogi Babu in a supporting role. The film features music composed by Santhosh Narayanan.
‘Pariyerum’ Perumal narrates the story of a youth hailing from Puliyankulam village near Tirunelveli. Pariyan (Kathir) belongs to an oppressed caste, as evident from the setting of the film and the people he comes across in this story.
The movie begins with the brutal murder of his beloved ‘Karuppi’. The canine hunting companion of Pariyan is the first one we see becoming a victim of caste.

By Naveen


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