In Tamil Nadu, it is often said that there is a 'Raaja song for every occasion'.
But last night, the Dravidian section of social media users was perhaps at a loss to find a song to match its mood and moment. It found it hard to come to terms with the fact Ilaiyaraaja got emotionally devotional about the Ram temple at Ayodhya.
Speaking at a function in Chennai, the musical genius did not hold back his fervour and feeling in the aftermath of the Prana Pratishtha function at Ayodhya.
Describing it as an event of the world, a visibly moved Raaja also heaped words of praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "My eyes are tearing up, I am crying," he said in reference to Modi's work on Ram Mandir.
As it is, the Dravidian section is cut up with the developments in Ayodhya.
A true Tamil icon, whose impact is across age groups and beyond caste, class and religion, openly coming out with glowing terms for the newly-consecrated Ram temple at his birthplace, not surprisingly sent the Dravidologists into a state of apoplexy. And when he also made bold to shower appreciation on Modi, things came to a head, as it were.
From instantly branding him as a 'sanghi', they let loose a fusillade of vilifying words on the maestro. Some of the handles were downright nasty and mean.
Of course, he has been at the receiving end of some of these people ever since he wrote the foreword to the book Ambedkar & Modi: Reformer’s Ideas, Performer’s Implementation in which he drew parallels between the Prime Minister and one of the architects of the Indian Constitution.
Raaja, A Constant Target Of Dravidologists
From then on there has been a constant sniping at the musical great. Him hailing from a Dalit background was constantly usurped by the Dravidologists.
From Congress leader E V K S Elangovan to fellow musician James Vasanthan, all have targeted him personally and aimed potshots at his beliefs. But the attacks on him, even if nasty, were relatively limited.
But the Ram temple issue, which the Dravidian sections were trying to play down in Tamil Nadu, is as mainstream as they come. Everyone has an opinion on it, one way or the other.
When someone like Raaja, with his tall reputation and stature, comes all out swinging in favour of the Ram temple, the Dravidians look to be completely taken aback. And in the process, they seem to lose their sense of balance.
The words aimed at a true-blue pride of the state were scary. On social media platforms, vicious trolling is the norm. But if this was happening to Raaja, imagine what it would be for others?
On the other hand, it can also be argued that it is only because it was Raaja they couldn't handle it with any amount of grace. For, Raaja, at the risk of repeating ourselves, is a phenomenon like no other in Tamil Nadu. He is in a league of his own.
But the relentless volley of abuse on him is unwarranted. It is not as if he is above criticism or beyond reproach. But what he said and what he has been receiving in return through barbs is disproportionate.
Raaja’s Ram Bhakti Is Pure
Now, the Ram temple has been cleared by the Supreme Court of India. There may be room for picking holes in the way the whole function played out yesterday (22 January) and the political flavour underpinning the occasion.
But what Raaja was expressing was his innate devotion to Lord Ram. He is never known for pretending or posing or playing to the gallery. He is what you see. Artifice, especially for cheap gains, is beyond him.
He has never hid his Hinduness. He has openly spoken about his religious epiphanies.
His Ram bhakti, you can say for sure, is from his heart. In the event, there is very little to question and quibble on that score. But when the official line in Tamil Nadu seems to be that the worship of Ram is not intrinsic to the land, Raaja's words — the man who is a true son of the soil — rebuff it all. Hence the no-holds-barred blitz on him.
But make no mistake, Raaja is not here to do anyone's bidding. He is no handmaiden of anyone. The BJP too cannot own him. He will doubtless say or do something in the future that may not go down well with that section. Raaja has a mind of his own, which is what helps him make great music in the first place.
But clearly there is an attempt to rein him in and get him to play the tune of their liking by the Dravidian sections. And that is as much an act of fascism as anything they claim to be.
Let Raaja be. He is a legend for a reason. He and his music are too precious. Let him not be sullied by trenchant trolls of sordid social media. In their godless realm, nothing is sacred. Neither Raaja. Nor Ram. It is apostasy wrought by unthinking.
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