‘Mookuthi Amman’ (Nose-ring Goddess) is a 2020 movie by RJ Balaji, Indian radio jockey-turned actor-director.
The movie is a variant of a template — a God/messenger of God/alien descending on earth and observing its corruptions and scandals of contemporary society.
This is also not new genre in Tamil film industry.
Loosely based and improvised on Puthumaipithan’s short story, where Siva emerges in person to modern Tamil Nadu, director K Vijayan made a fantasy-comedy-social critique movie titled Rudra-Tandavam in the year 1978.
In the movie, Siva visits the priest and exposes the hypocrisy of the society — particularly of the rich and the powerful. Unable to bear the suffering of the poor, Siva, at last, performs His angry dance. In the end, it turns out to be the dream of the priest, though he could still hear the voice of Siva.
The movie set the template for using a Hindu God to denigrate Hindu tradition as well as social evils.
For example, when a traditional looking Thevaram reciter complains about his suffering, Siva is shown derisively telling the priest that he never wanted the person to learn Thevaram instead of learning some useful means of living.
RJ Balaji has adopted the same template, but in a more malicious manner.
The movie shows Mookuthi Amman, a village Goddess, coming to a family in distress. She is their Kula-devata, whom they have ignored.
She comes and looks at all the hypocrisy happening in the name of religion. More importantly, she helps the family fight against the land grabbing new-age ‘Godman’ — a charlatan — who is the main villain.
So, while the main thrust of attack is on the cultish Hindu ‘Godman’ and his land grabbing tendencies, there is a mild criticism of the fringe anti-Hindu elements to give a semblance of neutrality.
There is a scene where the Goddess listens to a caricatured pseudo-rationalist's rant, where the orator says that he would eat the Christian sacred manna and the iftar gruel, but would not eat the one offered to the Goddess.
The Goddess tells the listening hero that one could trust an atheist, but not a person who talks high of one God and insults another.
There is also a scene where the sister of the hero, studying in a Christian school, in a determined manner, refuses to wear traditional Hindu marks like Bindi.
The hero goes and begs her not to convert, because the mother would feel 'hurt'. The nun answers that thousands of girls study in their school and they are not in the business of conversion.
In both these scenes, while providing an impression of being seemingly neutral, there is a subliminal message against the Hindus.
In the criticism that the Goddess makes regarding the pseudo-rationalist, the words are chosen carefully. It speaks of the pseudo-rationalist praising one God over another, while, in reality, it is praising one religion over the other. The former is not half as diabolical as the latter. In fact, the dialogue is meant to decrease the intensity and the real anti-Hindu politics behind the hypocrisy, as if it is merely siding in a competition between Gods.
In the case of the sister of the hero getting attracted to Christianity, even here, there is a Hindu-phobic element.
The mother, having already had a girl child, does not want another girl and hence the child is named ‘unwanted Amrit’ — a name that expresses an aversion for the female child.
So, her aversion for not wearing Bindi, which she removes even when the family makes her wear it, and her name being changed to 'Sophia' in the school etc., are shown actually as 'sympathetic gestures'.
It should be noted here that usually, Hindus complain of girls being forced to remove their Bindi and flowers by Christian convents.
Playing on this, the movie subliminally tells that it is the family that forces the Bindi on the child and that her gravitating towards Christianity is actually a form of 'liberation' from her Hindu domestic environment, which 'hates' her.
Here, her moving towards Christianity and away from Hindu culture is implied as not because of the forcible brainwashing in the school, but because of the 'ethical superiority' of Christianity.
There was yet another scene where a ludicrous evangelical conversion was shown and the Goddess, 'absolving' Jesus of the evangelical mores.
Mookuthi Amman confronts the evangelist, quotes a verse from the Christian Gospel and 'threatens' him that Jesus would throw the evangelist into hell fire, while declaring Jesus to be Her 'friend'.
One should note here the subliminal ascertaining of Christian theology — goodness, and presence of Jesus, and the eternal hell fire.
But even this scene shown in the trailer was removed from the movie.
Here, it should be noted that this criticism of evangelists actually does not criticise the real Christian fanatical and unethical evangelists operating in Tamil Nadu, in collusion with politicians like Jagat Casper and Mohan C Lazarus.
Their pseudo-scientific attempts to spread racism and appropriate Tamil culture and traditions or their inciting of the masses against development projects never get critiqued. But this inconsequential criticism is made of fringe evangelists, while in the case of Hindu sadhus, it reinforces the baseless allegations made against Isha of land grabbing.
What makes this movie completely venomously anti-Hindu is the fact that this movie has been set in Kanyakumari district.
The particular place mentioned in the movie as 'land-grabbing' by a Hindu ‘Godman’ takes place — Vellimalai — is the place where a very old Hindu Ashram is situated.
Vellimalai Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Ashram was founded by Swami Ambananda in 1940.
Nurtured by Swami Madhurananda, one of the greatest spiritual seers of modern Tamil Nadu, the Ashram also became an epicenter for Hindu renaissance, creating a model for socio-spiritual reawakening of the Hindus.
Through religious classes for children, the Ashram effectively checked the rampant proselytizing then happening through educational institutions.
The present head of the institution, Swami Chaitanyananda, a young energetic Swami, has further taken the activities all over Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
Known for their simple, austere living and high moral values, the Swamis of this institution are respected across religious boundaries and three generations.
At the same time, the Christian missionaries have been strongly involved in land grabbing through various means in many sacred places of the Hindus throughout Kanyakumari district often with the sly, clandestine support of those in power.
A good example is the way Hindus were deprived of the sacred mountain from where they used to light the Karthikai Deepam, when suddenly they awoke one day to find that the mountain had become the property of the Roman Catholic Church. Not only were the Hindus stopped from their traditional practice, but a huge church too was built atop the mount.
Similarly, Christian evangelists have purchased land and built institutions near other sacred places of Hindus like Maruthuvazh Malai and Kumarakovil — all hillocks.
This silent, legally professional, but unethical and adharmic encroaching of sacred places in Kanyakumari district is a form of a real estate crusade.
This local background has to be understood to realise the real mischief in choosing the place of confrontation as Vellimalai and turning a negatively depicted Hindu sect into a land grabbing one.
With respect to conversion in Christian convents, seven years ago, some shocking videos came out in social media about a very prominent Christian school in Nagercoil using its students in school uniforms in what seemed to be a psychologically abusive situation.
There were wide protests against it. While many alleged that the Hindu students too were made to participate, the usual refrain seemed to be that only Catholic students were involved.
Yet, the videos showed an event which veered more towards a psychologically traumatic situation for the children — something not a normal parent desires irrespective of religion.
Kanyakumari district also has a long history of schools, including government ones, turned into battle grounds of proselytizing forces.
Placing his story in a district with such a situation, Balaji creates a justification for school-based child evangelism.
As a Machiavellian anti-Hindu propagandist movie that it is, the movie also presents the fault line between the so-called mainstream Hindu Gods and Goddesses as well as the Grama and Kula Devatas.
Allegations have been repeatedly made by anti-Hindus that Hindus ignore the ‘small deities’ in favour of ‘Brahminical big deities.’
In the movie, the Goddess is irked by the fact that the family forgets Her and plans to go to Tirupati.
The plot seems to have come straight from an interview given by actor Kamal Hassan, wherein, displaying his ‘rational’ prowess, he stated that people are 'forced' to go to Tirupati, while forgetting the local Gods.
Incidentally, Balaji, who uses the same divide here, is ironically named Balaji.
However, in reality, most Hindu families who have forgotten their Kula Devata or Grama Devata, mostly because of economic factors which necessitated migration to other places, mainly urban areas, often get reminded by informal Hindu religious counsellors, who are mostly astrologers, to go and worship their Kula Devatas or Grama Devatas.
And these Gods and Goddesses do not have any caste divide, as often projected by half-baked intellectuals.
Brahmin Jatis have Gods and Goddesses with non-Brahmin priests and vice versa.
The name of the movie is also mischievous. In the local traditions, Goddess Kanyakumari is known for the shining splendor of Her nose-ring. The movie tries to present Her as a comical fantasy Goddess.
Meanwhile, in Kanyakumari district, there are sustained and frequent attacks by evangelists on village Hindu temples. When they create aggressive transgressions near the Grama Devata temples, it is the Hindu organisations that come and fight for the protection of these temples and not the people who create the artificial divide between the utterly false categories of ‘folk’ and ‘Brahminical’ deities.
So, where does all this leave us?
A movie like ‘Mookuthi Amman’ should be seen as more a project than a movie.
It is part of the project — a project to create as much a divide among the Hindus and insert a guilty feeling among Hindus to leave them vulnerable to predatory forces of proselytizing.
However, the overcautious nature of the pro-proselytizing forces in the Censor Board seem to have made the movie backfire.
The censoring of even the inconsequential criticism of the fringe evangelists has made the Hindus awaken from their slumber and understand the reality at least to some extent.
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