What does the film ‘Draupathi’ represent?

Tamil film Draupathi, shot within a Rs 50 lakh budget, is an abject failure, on many counts. Here are some pointers:

  1. Lacks technical finesse
  2. Characterisation sucks
  3. Characters speak dramatic lingo
  4. Screen play is a drag and is predictable
  5.  Dialogue delivery is a drag too
  6. Too many issues to address – methane, hydrocarbon, sand mafia et al.
  7. Rushed scenes
  8. List continues …

With all the above, what is the need for this movie? Does it provide any entertainment value? Is it worth the time?

Draupati Movie

So, what did the movie Draupathi and its director Mohan achieve, if at all, in this movie that has all the above disdainful characteristics?

The movie and the director have:

  1. brought out the voice of the so-far-not-spoken castes of Tamil Nadu.
  2. made it known that alternate voices do exist in the state.
  3. debunked the ‘no-caste-in-Tamil-Nadu’ theory.
  4. punctured the utopian theories of dravidian politics that have so far sought to whitewash heinous crimes under the guise of ‘social justice’.
  5. established that while it is correct to talk about ‘honour-killings’, it is equally correct to talk about ‘staged-marriages’.
  6. established a new trend in Tamil cinema.

This film has evoked predictably lack lustre and downright irreverential response from The Hindu and The New Indian Express while evoking strong resentment from the so-called Periarists and Pseudo-Secularists. These make this film a mandatory watch. Even more predictably, the movie had met with resistance from the time its teaser was released.

In the late 80s, yet another Tamil film, “Ore Oru Gramathile’, a movie that was far ahead of its times to have portrayed a brahmin girl misusing reservation meant for scheduled tribes and becoming an IAS officer, was opposed tooth and nail by the dravidian parties who forced the director to make several cuts in the movie. ‘If any idea arises that contradicts the popular narrative, it has to be nipped in the bud’ was the version of ‘freedom of expression’ practised in the Rationalist Republic of Tamil Nadu, then. Much water has flown since, and therefore ‘Draupati’ didn’t meet the fate of ‘Ore Oru Gramathile’.

I had witnessed such orchestrated-love-marriages in Neyveli during the 80s and 90s. Every six months my father would come home from office and begin to narrate a melancholy – that of an Iyengar girl eloping with a dalit / christian  employee. This became so predictable that when ever he came home angry and tired, we could guess some story on those lines.

Many years later I came to know about such orchestrated-love-marriages first hand. While I was a student of Salem Govt Engineering College in the early nineties, I had fallen sick. As I was running very high temperature in the dead of night, my hostel mate Vamsee had taken me to Omalur, a nearby village, in search of a doctor. The first one that we could find, after administering emergency an injection, began talking to me in brahmanical Iyengar Tamil. Flabbergasted, I looked up in surprise, even though I was dead tired, to hear a shocking truth. ‘I am an SC. My wife is a Thenkalai Iyengar from Sri Rangam. I have enjoyed government reservation in studies. But I wanted my children to be intelligent. Hence enticed an iyengar girl into falling in love with me. This is an organised cartel that funds such attempts’.

‘Why Iyengar girls?’ I had asked.

‘Suppose a dalit child and a paapppaara child ( brahmin child) return from school. While the paappaara child would start studying immediately after coming from school, the dalit child would go hunting and playing in the wild. To overcome this genetic trait, we get an upper-caste marriage for intelligent genes and reservation for studies’. The doctor had elaborated on several such episodes to a weak and ailing yours truly. ‘Would genes be intelligent? Would they get transmitted to the progeny in the right proportion?’ I had wanted to ask, but felt too weak to even wag my tongue.

That incident opened my eyes to another dimension in life. And this orchestrated-fake-marriages came to light in a 2014 judgement of the Madras High Court, which is what has been depicted in the movie ‘Draupati’. The courage to depict this almost- forgotten judgment is reason enough to view the movie.

Just because Dr.Ramadoss, the leader of a regional political party, had supported the movie, it doesn’t, in any way, eradicate and belittle the movie content or the truth embedded into the story of the film. While yet another brilliant Tamil movie about the atrocities on Dalits – Asuran – ( based on a novel by name ‘Vekkai’) was well received by movie loving Tamil Nadu and hailed as ‘true depiction of dalit oppression, it appears to be beyond reason not to celebrate ‘Draupati’ with the same euphoria and pomp.

While it is true that Vanniar community in Tamil Nadu has been majorly affected by the ‘orchestrated-love-marriage’ criminal act, there are other communities like Devar, Gounder, Chettiar and Pillaimar who have suffered to a great extent, so much so, that the wealthy Chettiars in villages around Panruti in Tamil Nadu get their daughters married off as soon as they enter colleges, lest they be subjected to such cheat-marriages in college. A Chettiar friend of mine from Panruti recently got his niece, a first year student in a local college, married off within his community. The girl, after marriage, would continue to be in her parent’s house and would move to her husband’s home on completing her studies. And this arrangement is guaranteed by the elders in the community. Call it innovation, but this is a trick to prevent a clear and present danger, for orchestrated-marriage racket happens mostly in colleges, especially during the summer vacations.

What irked me in the movie?

While no other caste is depicted explicitly in the movie, there is an exception to the caste of the sub-registrar who is shown to sport the Sri Churnam ( the yellow line in the forehead depicting Goddess Mahalakshmi) in the office scenes and to sport the traditional panacha kachcham at home and being bare bodied and thus exposing the sacred thread. I know that it is the norm in any Tamil movie to explicitly call out brahmin characters, so much so, that a do-gooder brahmin would seem utopian. I consoled myself with the thought that the evil sub-registrar was bare bodied and in a panacha kachcham as he was preparing to leave for Tirumala (not sure who would travel bare bodied all the way from Chennai to Tirumala). Also how many brahmin sub-registrars exist in Tamil Nadu these days?

Lest left-liberal-pseudo-secular-evangelical-luddites should pounce on me for supporting a supposedly mid-casteist film, here is my review of an out and out dalit film.

P.S.: I had not visited a movie theatre in India in the last 15 years. I made an exception this time, bought a ticket and watched this movie in a theatre in Chennai, for I felt that the director and his ilk needed to be encouraged to produce movies that reflect societal reality.

Ref:

  1. News items in 2014 on Fake Marriages
  2. Ramadoss video on Fake Marriages
  3. Indian Express review of Pari Yerum Perumal
  4. The Hindu review of Pari Yerum Perumal
  5. The Hindu review of Draupathi
  6. Indian Express review of Draupathi

 

 

Soul not for sale

Let me say in second person singular. Writing in Third person in passive voice is not effective.

Dear Converter,

I confess. I have not read ‘The Book’ in full. Don’t intend to read as well. But that does not mean I am game and ripe for harvest, does it ?

How do you think I am ‘available’ ? Or do I appear ‘available’ ?

Let me come to the point. How do you think you are in a position to offer me ‘solution’ or ’emancipation’? Why do you think I need emancipation ?

What is ’emancipation’ by the way ? Is that wine tasting ? If I am a tee-totatler them am I in need of ;emancipation ? Is that how you define ?

Or has emancipation got to do with the way one worships ? If you fall flat before the altar you are in need of emancipation and if you kneel down you don’t need. Is that how you define emancipation ?

Let us come to solutions.

When you think you can offer me a ‘solution’ do you think you are at a higher level than me so that you can ‘uplift’ me ? What makes you think you are placed in an elevated pedestal ?

Are you a vendor of solutions ? To offer me solution, I need to be in a problem. I am not in any problem. Why do you assume that I am in a problem ?

How do you know my problem even before you know me and my way of life. Why hasten to a solution even before you know me ?

Have I ever come to you pleading my position and praying for emancipation ?

Is it that your ‘solutions’ are canonized in a single book and available for consumption and that mine are not in just one book and are scattered all over ?

Is it because I have many God forms ? Is it because myself and my folk speak different languages, eat different foods and live different lives yet consider ourselves of one culture ?

Let me as you something. In my culture, there is no one way to salvation. I choose a way while my brother chooses another. But we believe that all paths lead to salvation.

Are you sensible when you think myself and my brother should tread the same path ? Am I not different from my brother in terms of tastes and interests ? I like a dark colored God while my brother a fair skinned one. Sister doesn’t need one. Aren’t we family then?

Why do you say ‘My way or No way?’. Let me translate that for you. Why do you say ‘Only My God and no other God?’. Why can’t you see divinity in a cow or a goat ?

Let me ask you a question ? Why should my God be human at all ? Why can’t that be , say, a Tree or a Mountain ? Don’t you see God in these ?

Why can’t you see divinity in an inanimate thing as well ? Is your vision so skewed and narrowed ?

For me, that which cannot be controlled by me, that which is beyond my creativity, that which awes me is divine. So, a Tree and a Mountain are divine. Any problems ?

Understand this. In my house, the sin is not on the lamb. And therefore I don’t slaughter the lamb to rid my sin. The poor animal is a part of me, my overall existence. What is here is what is there. Get it ?

If you don’t get this, you think you could provide me ‘salvation’ ?

So why try harvest my soul ?

My soul not for sale. Period.

Change your religion, why papa ? – Part 2

‘Sir, Are you happy in your current life?’

You are into your deepest slumber on Sunday, the only day you get to rest. You hear a knock on your door. You ignore that and try to get into your sleep. The knock persists. You try to wish away the knock that it was only a dream. A couple of minutes later when you are re-entering your sleep, you hear the knock again. You get real and pounce towards the door, adjusting your night dress, and suddenly feeling that it has dawned already.

Upon opening the door, you hear the first sentence and see an elderly man and a twenty-ish fashionable lady.

‘Sir, Are you happy in your current life?’ You hear that again.

You are really confused as to what the world has come to. You don’t want to get angry seeing the elderly person. At the same time you don’t want to look like a fool seeing the twenty-ish thing.

‘When I am not allowed to sleep on a Sunday morning how could I be happy Sir?’, you say.

The above incident happened not one but twice when I worked in Mumbai, India in the mid-nineties.

Soon after, you are confronted with philosophical questions like ‘Why is man un-happy?’, ‘What makes the after life?’, ‘How does one not enter the fire in Hell?’, ‘How to get prepared for the ‘Day of Judgement ‘?’. and the like.

I looked at the elderly person. He should have been about 60 years old. He spoke English with a slight Marathi accent. But the girl was an Anglo-Indian whose English did not contain any trace of any oriental language. Her diction was perfect. For a south indian, I was able to align with her language than the elderly gentleman’s as I was still not comfortable with Marathi then.

‘How come many who have been pious and good-mannered suffer while those who are ill-mannered live a life of joy?’, she asked.

Having had a grounding in the Vedanta philosophy, I had been accustomed to this. But said,’Yes, I have this question lingering in my mind Miss. Could you possibly explain?’

‘Does your religion not answer this question, Sir?’, she inquired.

‘Well, I don’t know. Hence could you please explain?’, I said.

‘Excellent. That is because they are not in Jesus yet. If they would have been in Jesus, they wouldn’t have had to undergo this ignominy of having to suffer while there is perfectly nothing wrong with them’, she said and elaborated further,’ that is precisely why we are here today, to invite you to be part of Jesus and experience happiness in this life’.

My Vendatic background awakened. I knew what they were for. I invited them inside and offered them tea, much to the consternation of my friends whose sleeps were also getting disturbed. By virtue of we being bachelors(then), we shared an apartment in Mumbai.

They obviously did not like my Tea. That showed. However the discussion continued.

‘Madam, let me ask you something. Let me ask you some questions’, I proceeded.

The duo seemed prepared.

‘Why do you think I am not happy?’, I said.

‘Because nobody is happy in this world. Everybody is pained at something or the other’, he said.

‘No, my question is Why do you think that I am not happy in this life?’

‘That is the general rule. Nobody is happy unless he is in Jesus’, he said.

‘Sir, I am a product of my mind. Even in difficult situations, one can be happy if one wished. It is just a matter of the mind’, I reasoned.

‘But why is there suffering in this world?’, she asked.

‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This suffering of a person is a result of some past deed’, I said.

‘Why do some perfectly reasonable and well-intentioned people who have done all good deeds in their lives suffer?’, he asked.

‘That is because of past actions. By past I mean the past lives. That is explained as ‘Karma’ in the Indian thought’, I reasoned.

‘No, that is not acceptable. Indian thought is pagan thought. And that is not the path of God. So that cannot be true’, she said and added ‘so you believe in superstitions such as previous lives?’, she inquired.

‘Madam, what is superstition becomes a fact. But what is a fact is still considered a superstition like the earth being the center of the universe’, I said knowing that I was touching a raw nerve here and continued thus :

‘Your assumption that I am not happy is fundamentally wrong.I am happy within the limited means that I have.  And I believe that what I possess is what I have been destined to possess and there comes my sense of equilibrium. My perceived sufferings are the result of actions that took place in my previous birth and therefore I am not going to blame anybody for that. That is how the sense of equanimity is brought in into the Indian life. But that does not mean one should not strive to be better. One should keep working on doing one’s duties without hindrance to others and that will ensure that the society is at peace. ‘Do your duty and I shall provide the results’ – That is the essence of the Vedantic school of thought’.

Continuing further, I had touched upon the Israel Palestinian conflict, the Irish Republican Army’s then efforts to destroy the UK despite following the same religion, the Catholic Protestant diatribes and the like and tried to show that not everything was rosy on the other side as well.

Looking back now , those might not sound scholarly or erudite anymore. But I evolved from then on and started paying attention to what the Indian Schools of Thought provided, what the great seers had said, how the missionaries had evolved in India, how the Indian society was exploited by them. how the then East India Company’s colonization of India and later the British empire’s rule followed by left-leaning socialist leaders’s regimes squandered and continue to squander the nation of its intellectual and spiritual farsightedness.

And that is the essence of this series.

Let me know your thoughts. Your words mean much in this effort.

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My earlier posts on this when I was ‘visited’ in Singapore are below :

When they ‘harvested’ me, almost

Waiting for the pastor