Stalin Rajangam Tamil Indian Express series part – 1 – Caste Violation: An Immutable Imagination (Two Stories Spanning a Century)

Stalin Rajangam Tamil Indian Express series part – 1 – Caste Violation: An Immutable Imagination (Two Stories Spanning a Century)
Stalin Rajangam Tamil Indian Express series part – 1 – Caste Violation: An Immutable Imagination (Two Stories Spanning a Century)

Nandanar has become a common symbol for portraying Dalit characters in Tamil. Nandana himself is held up as a role model for the ‘upper castes’ to embrace Dalits in particular. Nandanar was the role of the Dalit advocate assumed by the national movements when they focused on Dalit issues.

Although this ‘Nandanar’ came to be known in the year 1861 through “Nandanar Charitra Keertana” sung by Gopalkrishna Bharathiar, he achieved today’s popularity by being written again and again in the modern context of the twentieth century. Whether there were Dalits or not, the characters of Nandan were projected onto the character of the caste mind of India. Satisfied with that, Appatram is repeatedly written here. Nandanar has always been the one who has been reminded of the limits of their welfare whenever Dalits have come to the conclusion that they will not be bound by the caste definition.

Nandanar’s story is presented as a proof that conformity is not modern but rather traditional. Nandanar’s narration comes directly or indirectly when he tries to talk about the conflict and harmony between Dalits and non-Dalits. In some places, even without knowing or remembering him, this conflict-harmony has worked. Accordingly, new reconstructions of Nandanarai have also been created.

Bharti Kannamma (1997) was released in Tamil directed by Cheran. While it was a commercial success, the film generated attention outside the film as well. Opposing and intriguing reviews were also published.

Even today, the film is regularly mentioned in historical discussions about Tamil films. Bharti Kannamma is a notable film in Tamil movies in this regard.

This is the story of Bharathi Kannamma, which is set in the southern district: The protagonist Bharathi is a farmer in the house of Ambalacharkar in a town called Devar Palayam under the Bukkalalar system. A whistleblower is someone who wants to preserve the caste relationship and its structure between Dalits and non-Dalit (native) castes. Anyone who violates this definition will be condemned even by his own caste; He has love for Dalits who do not cross the definition. Being in love with Bharati means that he has a definition for Dalits.

In this case Kannamma, the farmer’s daughter, likes Bharathi. Earlier, when a Dalit boy named Mayan fell in love with a woman from the Ambalachar caste and ran away from the town, Ambalacharkar reacted strongly. Bharti refuses to accept Kannamma’s love based on that old experience and her faith in him. Although he is mentally fond of her, he stays away considering this situation. Knowing nothing of this, the farmer arranges for Kannamma to get married in her own caste. But Kannamma commits suicide on the first night of the wedding. Only Bharati knows that she died because of her love for him. Bharati, who was unable to express his will while alive, is now dying by falling into the burning wreckage of Kannamma. Only then Ambalakar and his caste understand this love. The farmer feels great guilt over Bharati’s loyalty.

A whistleblower who wants to recover from guilt does something about it. That means Bharathi’s younger sister was previously loved by his own caste man. But due to the caste definition of the town, it does not happen. Now he brings them and gets them married. By this he considers Bharathi and Kannamma to equalize the ‘rejected’ love.

This act of whistleblower is not new. The method from our tradition is performed here in a slightly modified form. In other words, it is our tradition to kill both men and women or one of them if they change caste and make love or marriage, fearing retribution/threats and deifying them. The exposer is doing almost the same thing here. But the screenplay shows this subject in a slightly different form according to the modern ideological influence.

Here Ambalachar did not kill Bharathi and Kannamma. The reason was that he did not know ‘the love between them’.

But his casteism was the reason for both of them to die. So he feels guilty. If sin and threat are taken as tradition then guilt can be taken as modern day politics. How he wants to make sense of this guilt is what we need to see in the film.

Even though the farmer and her daughter are dead, it is the farmer Bharati’s loyal devotion that causes the accused to feel guilty. As compensation, he marries Bharathi’s younger sister to her caste man, who has fallen in love with her. He regularly sends goods to the service castes of the town without them working or asking. Instead of employing caste-based workers even for his own needs, he fulfills himself. This is considered to be an act of respect/atonement for the dead. Bharati did not fall in love with his daughter despite Ambalakar’s wishes; did not run away; He is not subjected to shame. Instead, he resolves his disability by dying. Death is the end of everything. That ending seems to Ambalakar to be a message for their love. In this way Bharati seems important to him.

It is in this place that we see the film coming closer to the Nandanar story repeated in the twentieth century, rather than the local tradition of worshiping those who died in love across castes.

Nandanar of Gopalkrishna Bharatiyar’s Nandanar Saritra Keertana and Cheran’s Bharti Kannamma Bharti have many connections. Both are Dalits. Nandanar is a farm labourer. Bharti is employed as a drinker. As the entire story of the film is narrated by Ambalakkar, the story of Nandanar is narrated by Sage Upamanniya.

There are two people before Nandanar, one is the Lord and the other is the farmer. Both are ‘superior’ to Nandanar. He asks permission from the farmer to reach the Lord. Nandanar’s interaction between these two people is the whole story.

But in the story of Bharati Kannamma only Ambalachar is superior. Ambalachar is respected by Bharathi. At the same time, the whistleblower should not violate the caste rules he believes in.

The farmer stands in the way of Nandanar reaching the Lord. The farmer fears that if Nandanar worships the god he worships, he will become equal to him. Therefore, the farmer refuses to go to Nandanar Chidambaram.

If Bharati marries Kannamma, he will come into Ambalakar’s caste. But the caste norms believed by Ambalakar stand in the way of Bharathi’s acceptance of Kannamma. The problem is the same in both places. Bharathi interacts between Kannamma’s love and Ambalakar’s caste rules, just as Nandanar interacts between Lord and Pannamma. Bharati’s love for Kannamma is paralleled by Nandana’s desire to go to Chidambaram and see Natarasar. Bharati does not lack love for Kannamma. .The ‘wish’ is fulfilled as Bharati dies.

Nandanar wants to go beyond the farmer and reach God. That doesn’t mean there is no faith in the farmer. He believes in him; He asks for permission. The farmer wants to visit Natarasar with permission.

Here too Bharati has a crush on Kannamma and does not want to give up her loyalty to the farmer. Similarly, Nandana’s desire to go there to Chidambaram. Kannamma hugs Bharathi who pleads with her to accept him. He is distressed. On the whole, Nandanar and Bharati are in the same position. They are created to the extent that they do not want to leave the system they are in or its norms. Disobedience and conformity are shown to take place within it. The national movement led by the Brahmins offered to accept Nandanar with this compromise. But the protests that arose when Bharati Kannamma came out showed that the regional casteism was not ready for Bharati’s compromise. The need for an inclusive nation made Nandanar accept it. It has to be said that there was no such need for local casteism.

Nandana and Bharati express longing and anguish between transgression and conformity. Both are isolated from their entire group and hence conflict also arises. An argument arises between Nandanar and his caste who claim to serve Sivalokanathan himself. Bharati also argues with Mayavan, a member of his caste, who says that the farmer should not be trusted. Both are shown to fit their definition. Both are presented with only one way to overcome them. When Nandanar enters Chidambaram, Thillaji’s Antana caste come and stand in the way; they refuse to accept.

But the Lord appeared in Nandanar’s dream and in the Antanars’ dream and asked Nandanar to enter the temple. They light the fire because the Lord said that Nandanar will rise up and reach him by raising a fire and drowning in it. Nandanar goes and joins the Lord in the form of a proud Brahman Muni who gets rid of the impermanent body related to this world.

Bharti wakes up and comes running after hearing that there has been a death in Ambalakhar’s house. There relatives are standing around Kannamma’s body and crying. Bharti stands still, unable to do anything, just as Nandanar wails when Thillaji’s Antanars stop him. When the Antanars refused to enter the temple, Nandanar Thillai went to the southern pond and stood and sang. Bharathi beats the drum as Kannamma’s corpse is taken to the crematorium. Finally, after setting fire to Kannamma’s body, she bursts into flames unexpectedly. In both places the inferiors are accepted by the ‘superiors’ only after destroying themselves.

They are accepted only after destroying their old identity and assuming a new identity. In both places the destruction of old symbols is fire. Fire is a symbol here. That is, the sign of purification. It can be understood here that Indian stories say that women descend into the fire to destroy the ‘impurity of the filth.’ In that place they are given a new qualification. Nandanar becomes Nayanmar. According to the modern understanding, the search for caste atonement is considered to be the value given to Bharati.

In this respect both the copies are similar in their depiction of the Dalit. Did director Bharti Kannamma know Nandanar Charitra Keerthan? Did he reflect the story in his copy? is not the problem here. It could have been anyway. Bharti Kannamma director Cheran may have had good intentions in this matter, but without knowing him, it is impossible to think beyond certain limits. Somehow the traditional Indian mind has managed to think the way it thinks. What connects these stories even though they don’t know each other? Even after 150 years of the composition of Nandanar Charitra Kirtan, this community has not thought of Dalit presence beyond their borders. Bharati Kannamma Prati shows that they refuse to think. Especially when they think about building harmony with the Dalits, they create this kind of imagination. Because it is a fantasy of the Indian mind.

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The article is in Tamil

Tags: Stalin Rajangam Tamil Indian Express series part Caste Violation Immutable Imagination Stories Spanning Century

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