Tamil actors are fueling the rise of a neo-Luddite movement in Tamil Nadu and Kamal Hassan is cheer leading the whole show.
Actor Kamal Haasan, in his latest interview to a Tamil channel, reiterated what he has been betraying all his public life: an intentionally shallow understanding of Indic cultural issues. It seemed as though he was trying too hard to project himself as a ‘progressive’ individual.
He stated contemptuously that India is a nation which honours a book, the central theme of which revolves around gambling away a woman as if she were an object. In the same interview, he also claimed that his film Viswaroopam was never subjected to extra-constitutional censorship by Islamist forces. He declared that Dravidianism was here to stay. He took to task the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and showed a fondness for both Mahatma Gandhi and EVR – who were poles apart ideologically.
And then he also flaunted his love for Marxism in the interview. The actor, who is known for artful rendering of Hollywood scenes unto Tamil masses as innovations, has thus positioned himself as the voice of the ‘progressives’ in Tamil Nadu.
So, what explains Haasan’s over-explaining things?
Haasan is a representative sample of an interesting species in Tamil Nadu. Members of this species are born in upper caste families, claim adherence to rationalism, make shrill leftist remarks and revel in Dravidian rhetoric. Such individuals are happy to support Islamist forces. And curiously enough, they endorse Gandhi, Communism and E V Ramaswamy (EVR or famously known as Periyar) – a weird ideological hodgepodge if there was one.
For decades, Tamil drama artist and writer ‘Gnani’ Sankaran had adhered to this template and has been more Dravidian than Dravidian radicals. And yet despite the intellectual servitude he keeps getting reminded about his Brahmin origins. All this leads us to wonder as to whether such intellectual regression – an almost unthinking submissiveness towards Dravidian ideas of racial superiority – evolved as an upper caste response towards the threats emanating from Dravidian parties.
If you thought this was bad please rest assured that it can get even worse.
The elder brother of Kamal Haasan, actor Charu Haasan, who identifies himself as an atheist has acted in an evangelical docu-drama, which claims that the coming of Jesus has been foretold in Vedic literature and that Tamil classics including Thirukural are actually Christian literature. One can see where the worldviews of Haasan brothers converge – whether they do it intentionally or ignorantly.
In the case of Kamal Haasan and Tamil milieu, the situation is a disturbing caricature of Germany of the 1930s. There is a new neo-Luddite trend in Tamil secessionist forces, which uses tools of anarchy to portray every development project and every incident happening as conspiracy against Tamils. This is derived from the rich Dravidian rhetoric that claimed ‘North enjoys as South erodes’.
Interestingly, while the early Dravidian secessionists claimed that the South was neglected in the industrial development their present evolutes – the Tamil secessionists – claim that every development project was an effort to ‘steal the natural resources of Tamils by Delhi imperialists’.
Dravidian parties have fallen in line with the Tamil secessionists, who in turn are also supported by well-knit Islamist organisations.
It is in this context that one has to see the recent interview of Kamal Haasan, who made all the right noises for the above combination: Hatred for Indic traditions, an abject surrender before the Islamists and reassertion of Dravidian – Tamil identity.
That the actor has chosen to speak only after the demise of J Jayalalithaa is also significant. Though it is a telling commentary on the bravery of the aging matinee hero, it also shows how radical forces in Tamil Nadu are attempting to take over the vacuum created by the death of Jayalalithaa.
Kamal Haasan’s interview has to be seen not just as a specimen of intellectual ossification – but also as an indicator of the coming danger – Luddite Tamil fascism hands in gloves with Islamist fundamentalism.
In fact, a section of Kollywood has been very vocal in inciting the students against development projects in the state, and is trying to make jallikattu movement dangerously secessionist.
However, the silver lining is the flak that the interview has received from the vast silent majority of Tamils. His half-baked understanding of the Mahabharata has been mostly laughed off. It is this silent majority which shall save Tamil Nadu from secessionists and pseudo-rationalists like Kamal Haasan. Alas, the only problem in Tamil Nadu is that the leadership vacuum continues!
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