Tamil Nadu

Tamil cinema’s contribution to freedom movement

Thyaga Bhoomi was based on one of the popular stories written by Kalki Krishnamurthi.

Thyaga Bhoomi was based on one of the popular stories written by Kalki Krishnamurthi. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The widespread impact the Indian Independence movement had on the psyche of people across the country is unparalleled. Naturally, the freedom movement began to influence the world of art as well, especially movies and theatre plays, despite the then British Raj closely monitoring works of arts that were supportive of the freedom movement and spirit of independence.

Whenever one recalls Tamils films that extolled the freedom movement, Thyaga Bhoomi (1939) and Mathru Bhoomi (1939) are two films that come to mind.

Thyaga Bhoomi was based on one of the popular stories written by Kalki and published in a popular Tamil magazine. The film’s storyline was about a woman who was deserted by her husband. Instead of living a life of dread, she becomes a freedom fighter.

Chronicler of films, Randor Guy, notes that the magazine continued to publish the story along with relevant stills from the film even as it was being made. The songs in the film were based on Bharathiyar’s famous poetry.

Upon its release, the film was highly successful and ran to a full house for 22 weeks. This was when the trouble came calling for the makers.

“The film was banned by British government of Madras when it took over power from the Congress party which resigned over the Second World War issue. The British Indian rulers thought Thyaga Bhoomi was the Congress party’s propaganda to promote the Indian freedom movement. The film features a procession of Gandhi-capped volunteers. Off-screen noted Carnatic musiciain D.K. Pattammal sings ‘Desa Sevai Seiya Vareer’,” says Randor Guy.

Unfazed, the film’s director, K. Subrahmanyam and Kalki, screened the film for free in Gaiety Cinema, Chennai, until the ban order was officially served on the theatre owners. One person died in the lathi charge that ensued at the theatre.

A 1999 report in The Hindu states the film was screened for free throughout the city for four days so the public could get to see it.  Another movie with a patriotic theme that was banned during the same year, was Mathru Bhoomi, directed by H.M. Reddy and based on a Bengali play, Chandraguptha, which dealt with life of Chandragupta Maurya. The film was reportedly considered by the British government as an allegoric work of art pointing to British occupation of India as it dealt with Alexander The Great’s conquests in India.

AVM’s Nam Iruvar, written by Pa. Neelakantan, was another film that added to nationalistic sentiment. The movie was directed by P. Neelakandan and had many songs based on Bharathiyar’s poetry. Reportedly, All India Radio played patriotic songs from this film, in keeping with the spirit of freedom from this film on the night of August 15, 1947.

With the British government gradually acknowledging the impact of cinema on its audience, the filmmakers and producers used the small spaces that were available to them to plant the seed of nationalism through their works.


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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 1:16:13 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-cinemas-contribution-to-freedom-movement/article65768928.ece