Tracing how political stance played a pivotal role in Tamil cinema-Entertainment News, Firstpost

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For anyone who follows Tamil cinema, there is little doubt about the plausibility of some sort of political tenor in Mersal’s dialogues.

Vijay’s recent film Mersal continues to rake in a lot of money at the box office and unlike other Vijay films, interest in this one is bound to transcend the mainstream superstar audience. A small part of this phenomenon can be attributed to a brief dialogue in Mersal on the recently implemented Goods and Services Tax (GST).

In the film, Vetri, one of the characters played by Vijay, remarks that while a country like Singapore charges only 7% GST and provides free health care, India, which has high GST rates, does not. can’t afford to do the same. The scene which looks like a sort of press conference also includes a reference to public hospitals without oxygen cylinders, which is seen as a commentary on the recent Gorakhpur tragedy.

While the producers of the film offered to delete the scene which also disappeared viral on the Internet because of the ‘Factual inaccuracies‘Highlighted by Tamil Nadu BJP, the reactions led to a surge in demand for tickets.

Political identity and, by extension, political position is an integral part of most of the big stars of Tamil cinema.

Since its inception, the state of Tamil Nadu in 1969, which was previously called Madras State from 1950 to 1969 and Madras Presidency from 1653 to 1949, a chief minister, with a background in cinema, has mainly headed the ‘State. Directly from CN Annadurai, the first CM of Tamil Nadu and also the first politician of the Dravidian parties to widely use Tamil cinema for political propaganda purposes, the state saw former screenwriter M. Karunanidhi and cinema legends MG Ramachandran (MGR ) and J. Jayalalithaa have held the dominant position in state politics for much of the past fifty years.

Vijay in Mersal. Image from News 18.

For anyone who follows Tamil cinema, there is little doubt about the plausibility of some sort of political tenor in Mersal ‘dialogues.

Almost all Tamil movie stars, whether male or female, at one point or another during their career have been in a situation where their cinema has revealed their political preferences. Looking back to the 1967 election which saw movie personalities enter full-time politics, the role of cinema in state politics and the influence of stars in Tamil politics becomes quite evident.

At that time, the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) was essentially seen as the only party of Tamil nationalism that took the cinema as a vehicle for political mobilization. In fact, K. Kamaraj, then CM and chairman of the All-India Congress Party, even mocked DMK’s aspirations and even allegedly said, “How can there be government by actors?” “

Since its inception, the DMK has used films to promote its ideology whenever possible. This was reiterated by Robert L. Hardgrave in an enlightening article “Politics and the Film in Tamil Nadu: The Stars and the DMK” which was first published in 1973. In the essay, the author mentions how the DMK considered the film to be the most important. art form because it was the most popular and articulates Annadurai, the founder of DMK, wrote six screenplays to “educate the people of Tamilnad”.

These films advocated the themes of cooperative agriculture and the abolition of zamindari among other “elementary principles of socialism” and created an environment where their message was delivered through gripping dialogues written by Annadurai and later Mr. Karunanidhi and portrayed on screen by stars of days like KR Ramaswamy, NS Krishnan and later MG Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan (who later joined Congress).

The way MGR used his on-screen character to forge a distinct identity after leaving DMK to form AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) leaves no doubt about the closeness between political identity and cinema. in Tamil Nadu. While MGR was in the political wilderness in the early 1970s, he had come to be seen as the “protector” of the common man and convinced of the moral purpose of his films, in an interview with Hardgrave in 1969 he also mentioned that the roles he portrayed were to show how a man should live and believe.

Just as he was about to start his new party, MGR has been featured in films Netru Indru Naalai (1974), Idhayakani (1975), Indru Pol Endrum Vazhga (1977), who helped him connect with the common man socially. The power he wielded as a movie star – Annadurai is supposed to have said of him: when we show his face, we get 40,000 votes; when he says a few words we get 4 lakhs – saw him become CM in 1977 and he remained in office until his death in 1987.

When it comes to Tamil films, what Robert L. Hardgrave observed in the early 1970s – the identification of the movie star and the party is reflected in the popular images of the stars – continues to be true even today. ‘hui.

Today, as Tamil Nadu politics appear to be at a crossroads with a looming political struggle between two of the biggest stars – Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan – the film may well end up playing its part again. Haasan Tweeter support for Vijay is just the next salvo fired after his recent turn around on demonetization and his previous commentary of saffron is not its color.

As expected, the reference to the GST and other current events in Mersal have generated both political support and opposition. Hassan’s tweet suggesting that Vijay shouldn’t give in to the pressure and delete a scene that was deleted by censors drew responses that reminded him of his decision to delete scenes that were offensive to Muslims in his films Vishwaroopam.

While Rahul Gandhi is Tweeter telling the prime minister not to “try to demonize Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal”, filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar denounced the hypocrisy of the vice president of Congress. Bhandarkar had faced the wrath of the Congress Party upon the release of Indu Sarkar (2017) who examined the life of an ordinary person during the Emergency Imposed by Ms. Indira Gandhi and asked where was freedom of expression when the Congress called for the film to be banned.

Regardless of how you look at it, the fact that, for better or for worse, the stars have influenced Tamil Nadu politics and at first glance may well continue to do so.


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