Saturday, Aug 13, 2022
Outlook.com
Cover Story

Dravidian Century: A Paradox

Why did the greatest movement of the south fail to redeem its emancipatory promise?

Dravidian Century: A Paradox
The Quartet |
C.N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, MGR and Periyar in the late 1960s
Dravidian Century: A Paradox
outlookindia.com
2016-12-02T19:09:37+05:30

There’s a founding paradox at the heart of the Dravidian movement, in its very name. Like the word ‘Hindi’ is Persian in ori­gin, the word ‘Dravidian’ is actually Sansk­rit. For a concept that’s taken to mean a lot of things—but at its core a strong sense of linguistic separateness—this marks out a canvas bristling with ironies. Yes, there is a Dravidian family of languages, but a whole movement was carried out in its name that never much referred to the rest of them, except by holding up Tamil as a sort of master code—the fount of everything else. Yes, it did impact the social landscape and imagination profoundly: but at some level that was iffy too, marked by a capt­ure of power by middle castes, with even hard-core Tamil-speaking Dalits on its periphery. Did all the passion get used for a mere transfer of power? Does it live on as a powerful idea with potential? Or, a century on, has a liberation ideology been flattened to shallow, two-dimensional pop-kitsch cutouts?

The vibrant force it had in pop culture contains clues to this double life, with ideas gradually turned to spectacle and finally hollow tokenism. In 1947 came the Tamil film Kanjan (Miser) directed by Kovai A. Ayyamuthu, a Congressman and idealist, who also penned a song for the film. The lyric, in praise of the Tamil language, became very popular on radio and on gramophone records which sold well. Of course, the prodigious output from the film industry in Madras up until the early forties, before war-time censorship slowed production down temporarily, had dwelt on an assortment of themes—mythology, the freedom struggle, strong reformist takes on untouchability and temple entry, widow remarriage and temperance, to name a few.

Outlook Newsletters

Read More from Outlook

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

In happy times and sad, Habba Khatun’s sensuous songs make both young and old emotional. With the never-ending conflict bringing tragedies to every doorstep, Habba’s lyrics of separation amplify their mourning.

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

In India, only those relationships between a man and a woman are considered to be legitimate when there is a marriage between the two.

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Virat Kohli, 33, had recently stepped down as India's T20I captain and was subsequently removed as the ODI captain.

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

A Mahila Congress leader, who is the face of the ‘Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon’ campaign, however, has accused the party of anti-women bias after she was denied a ticket.