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Vetrimaaran’s Fiery Speech on Tamil Cinema: ‘Coating Thiruvalluvar with Saffron, Presenting Rajaraja Cholan as a Hindu King, Erasing Our Identity’

Tamil filmmaker Vetrimaaran recently emphasized the importance of shaping cinema as a means of spreading political knowledge. He spoke at the birthday celebration of Thol, the leader of MP and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK). Thirumavalavan when he delivered an impassioned speech about the current political scenario of the country.

Vetrimaaran recalled that when he wanted to make Asuran (2019), he first met Thirumavalavan to follow his advice to ensure that his film would not go awry politically. “When I asked what the priority should be when we cover such a subject in movies, he said I shouldn’t make the mistake of saying that one person can bring about change in society. Everyone makes the same mistake. Show that the changes happen through movement,” said Vetrimaaran.

Vetrimaaran claimed that Tamil cinema had stopped making politically relevant films for some time. And he also stressed the need to keep films within the realm of politics. “Art is inherently political. But Thirumavalavan went a step further and told me that our existence is political. Consciously or not, we occupy a certain political space. The way we dress, talk and everything about us is a reflection of the political ideology we have imbibed. Since the Dravidian movement has taken over Tamil cinema, Tamil Nadu remains a secular state and has given us the maturity to resist the influence of various external factors. Cinema is an art form that reaches ordinary people very easily and it is important to politicize it,” he added.

Vetrimaaran is very vocal about politics in his films. All of his films deal with an important social problem, be it the horrors of police brutality and imprisonment in Visaranai, or the ills of the caste society in Asuran. He promised that he would continue to talk about politics in his films.

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A still image of Visaranai.

“When the Dravidian movement took over cinema, there were fights about making art for art’s sake and not for the masses. They talked a lot about aesthetic beauty. Yes, that’s important too, but no art is complete if it doesn’t touch people’s lives,” he added.

He also claimed that many identities are being removed from the cinema. “The art is for the people, and reflecting the people is the art. So if we don’t, we have to be good with this art form… already a lot of our identities are being erased. Be it coating Thiruvalluvar with saffron, or presenting Rajaraja Cholan as a Hindu king, such things keep happening (in our society). This will also happen in the cinema and many identities are (already) removed from the cinema. We must protect our identity,” he said.

It is noteworthy that Vetrimaaran’s comments have come just days after the release of filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s highly anticipated film, Ponniyin Selvan: 1, which is based on Kalki’s fictional novel inspired by Rajaraja Cholan.

Vetrimaaran is now working on his upcoming movie, Viduthalai. The film stars Soori and Vijay Sethupathi in the lead role. After completing it, he will shoot Vaadivaasal starring Suriya.

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