Tamil Nadu

Films, caste and violence

A still from the movie 'Komban'  

It’s happening again. Actor Karthi’s Komban, due for release this week, is in the eye of the storm after K. Krishnasamy, leader of the pro-Dalit party, Puthiya Thamilagam, demanded a ban on the film saying that it would incite violence in the State.

The call for a ban has stemmed from the fear that the film could be glorifying the Thevar community, dominant in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts. This has triggered yet another debate on censorship and relevance of censor board in Tamil Nadu.

 While freedom of speech and expression must be defended, one must also be empathetic and create space for those who disagree with the film, say intellectuals and filmmakers.

Post-Censor Censorship

Thevar Magan

Tamil and Dalit intellectuals have criticised the film for glorifying the Thevar community, a politically and socially dominant community in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu


Filmmaker Prabhakaran's Sundarapandian, featuring actor Sasi Kumar in the lead role, was accused of sensationalising caste pride and honour killing in the opening sequences of the film.

Kutti Puli

The director of Komban, M. Muthaiah's earlier film was also hauled up for its pro-Thevar tilt. The film was accused of glorifying the dominant caste group in southern districts and endorsing anti-Dalit views.


The adoption of market economy coincided with the nation-wide mobilisation of dominant backward castes in India, which had its impact on cinema as well. Other egs: Chinna Gounder, Ejaman

 Ravikumar, a Tamil intellectual and member of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, said there is a difference between freedom of speech and freedom to spew hate. “The former must be defended, while the latter has to be condemned,” he said.

 With southern districts of Tamil Nadu seeing a rise in caste-related violence in recent times, an artist must not just view cinema as commodity to be monetised but as cultural product that will have a social impact, he said.

“Just like cinema commodifies sex and violence, it has commodified hate as well. In a society where the message of equality is uncommon, an artist must challenge caste-pride and not normalise it,” he added.

 Documentary filmmaker, R.P. Amudhan, who made a film on manual scavengers titled ‘Shit’, says he doesn’t believe in a ban, but calls for a no-holds-barred debate on the subject. “All films deserve severe criticism and anyone can raise a stink in the Assembly and approach the court. After all, in the so-called new wave cinema, the popular semi-urban Tamil films present an OBC-tilt and an anti-Dalit perspective, is it not?” he asks, adding, “We have to respond to it properly, be empathetic to protests and not dismiss them under the pretext of freedom of speech.”

 S. Ve. Shekar, regional Chairman of Censor Board, says the CBFC was following the guidelines in certifying films, but the State government had every right to decide if it has to be screened or not. A former AIADMK MLA, Mr. Shekar said the CBFC was always “liberal” and society must be more tolerant.

A filmmaker, who has made films about caste and didn’t want to be named, clarified that a distinction must be made between films that extol the virtues of a caste society and those that criticise them.

“Only when you live in Ramanathapuram, you will understand the politics of it all. This kind of censorship cuts both ways. Look at what happened to Perumal Murugan who wrote about the practices of a dominant community.”

Panel to watch film, submit report

Mohamed Imranullah S. reports from Madurai

The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday constituted a 10-member committee headed by two retired judges of the court to watch the film in a private screening in Chennai on Tuesday and submit a report to the court on the claim that the movie had the potential to instigate caste clashes in southern districts.

Justices S. Tamilvanan and V.S. Ravi ordered that the committee’s report should be faxed by Tuesday evening since the court had to decide the issue expeditiously as the film is scheduled for release for Thursday. The orders were passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by Puthiya Tamilagam president K. Krishnasamy.

Apart from the two former judges, K. Ravirajapandian and A.C. Arumugaperumal Adityan, the committee would comprise the petitioner and three of his lawyers besides the film producer and three of his advocates.

Arguing the case before the Bench, petitioner’s counsel W. Peter Ramesh Kumar contended that the film’s two-minute trailer, released on YouTube, shows that the story revolves around decades-old animosity between caste Hindus and Scheduled Castes in Ramanathapuram district, which has a chequered history of caste clashes.

He claimed that the protagonist of the movie was portrayed as a caste Hindu and the villains as belonging to Devendrakula Vellalar through subtle representations such as tying of red and green, colours of Puthiya Tamilagam flag, threads on their wrists. Such depictions would lead to unnecessary unrest among people, he argued.

Pointing out that nearly 100 murders with caste overtones had taken place in the southern districts in the last one year, counsel said: “Under such circumstances, there is every possibility of the film destroying the social fabric and promoting disharmony between communities, which are already not in a cordial relationship.”

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 10:20:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/films-caste-and-violence/article7052278.ece

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