The writer of this article Shobha Shakti is an Eelam Tamilian. She lives in France. She has participated in the warfare and having lost heart, she moved to France. She's a writer. Her Tamil novels 'Guerilla' and 'Im' have created a big stir in literary circles. She does not hesitate to analyse the danger of Eelam Tamils' aggression and their capability.
This essay having defined itself to discuss Seeman's 'Thambi,' is set within a time frame. But it transcends time, politics and the comprehension of Tamil cinema's extent and the business as long as it puts in forefront, Shobha Shakti's 'Thambi.' (This article has been taken from the Internet. This title is for cinesouth - JBR)
The Tamil comrades used to share with sorrow the events like doing milk abhishekam for film stars, building temples for favorite actresses, to cut off fingers for favorite actors, university lecturers and film critics writing articles praising films that are full of violence or those that awake sexual feelings like 'Kaadhal' about young people, writers challenging the classics of the world but writing dialogues that portray ghosts and caste feelings, writing dialogues for films with anti-social messages, treating film personalities as social consious people and interviewing them, emotional stalwarts who proclaim manhood through writing cinema lyrics that border on the obscene, the film personalities using cinema attraction as a weapon to decide the fate of the political platform
all this can happen only in Tamilnadu. I have a message that gives consolation to my aggrieved comrades. It is not restricted to Tamilnadu, but some of these atrocities are prevelant among the migrated Eelam Tamils.
In mid February, posters of Seeman's 'Thambi' as well as his writings were to be seen in the area of Paris that Srilankan Tamils frequent. Under the different appearances of actor Madhavan were printed the words, "Banish fear, cultivate anger." One of them even had a byline that said, "Important note: this film is about the problems of Srilankan Tamils." In one of the European channels, the preview of 'Thambi' was shown once every half an hour. In the preview, quotations by Che Guevara and Mao were featured on the screen as punctuation points.When 'Thambi' was released, migrant weekly journals celebrated the film. In the electronic media, 'Thambi' film, director Seeman and Che Guevara t-shirt became important topics for discussion. Seeman was celebrated as the disciple of Marx and Periyar's heir.
During these agitating times, it was possible to hear the delayed broadcast of Seeman's interview in the Inba Thamizh radio on 20.10.2005 through the Internet. This is what Seeman said in that interview. "When the Sinhala govt with its full strength is routing out the Tamils, the world sees it as a government's right to rule. But when we take up arms, the world sees it as terrorism. In my film 'Thambi' I have stressed on the fact that this should not be the judgement." More important than this is Seeman's interview to Ananda Vikatan after the release of 'Thambi.' "I offer the victory of 'Thambi' to Periyar and Prabhakaran."
Here is the story of 'Thambi.'
In a typical small Tamilian family that one sees in a film, Thambi, alias Velu Thondaiman is born in a family of loving parents and an adoring sister. Earlier films like 'Padayappa,' 'Paramasivan' and 'Thirupachi' also depict a similar family. Thambi gets a gold medal in college and starts working for a salary of Rs.8000 per month. One day on way to work, he happens to unwittingly see a murder committed by the younger brother of a rowdy Sankara Pandian.
Thambi appears in court as witness and Pandian's brother is sent to jail. Enraged by this, Pandian kills the entire model family of Thambi. Thambi sets out to Pandian's house to avenge the death of his own family. There he sees Pandian's own model family. He does not want Pandian's family to suffer for Pandian's misdeeds, so he tells Pandian, "We will stop with this." But Pandian thrashes Thambi and drapes him on some barbed wire. After Madhavan recovers from his wounds, he vows to fight evils in society. He chases the villain's henchmen and thrashes them to pieces. Thambi does not kill, but his victims dangle by a hair's breadth between life and death in a coma stage.
The film also hangs on this hair's breadth. Thambi takes up the cause of a man wrongly done to death. Like a mad man, he rages "Udhaikanum udhaikanum udhaipen" with big eyes red with anger. Seeing Thambi fight in the streets, Archana thinks he is a hero, falls in love with him and chases him. Thambi is too busy trying to reform the world, so he rejects Archana's love. Still, Archana sings 2 dream songs and dances with Thambi around town and around trees.
In between, Manivannan comes as advisor to Thambi. He describes in a heroic fashion, Thambi's actions when he sets right the errant youth who purposely jostle young ladies in crowded buses. At a university function, Madhavan talks touchingly on "Why did I become a street fighter?" The following are the sets in the background: 3 chairs, one table, writer Andal Priyadarshini, a mike stand, poet Arivumadhi, one electric fan. The advisor appears again to tell Thambi that Marx, Che Guevara and Prabhakaran were all married, so he could also marry Archana who was in love with him. Thambi immediately accepts Archana's love and she suddenly prostrates herself at his feet.
In a last minute hitch, Thambi saves Pandian's model family and gives him lot of advice too. Pandian has a change of heart and he accepts Thambi as his new guide. Unaware of this, Pandian's younger brother cuts up Thambi. As Thambi is lying in the hospital bed fighting for his life, he is surrounded by his grief stricken girlfriend and friends. More distressed are the villain and his younger brother who rub the tears from their eyes. The advisor appears and whispers in Thambi's ear, "Get up, Thambi. They are still jostling each other in the bus. So, get up. We still have lots of work to do
" and then "Thambi has recovered..."
Don't think this is the brief story of 'Thambi.' It is actually briefer than this. I have just elaborated it a bit for interest. In the dog fight between the errant younger brother and gangster elder brother, where is the comparison with the fight of the Srilankan Tamils?
It is atrocious that the girl should fall at his feet as soon as he accepts her love. Such a terrible film cannot be dedicated to even Veeramani or Kolathur Mani! With what temerity does Seeman dedicate it to Periyar?
I recall Professor Sivasekaran having written once that, "Talking about Tamil films is like scratching one's rashes." Though the professor had written it as if standing on the edge of helplessness, one has to admit that there has been effort that deserves commendation in the history of Tamil films. The films that came from the Dravidian movement and films such as 'Padai Theriyudu Paar,' 'Ezhavadhu Manithan' and 'Kann Sivandhal Mann Sivakkum' are significant in the history of Tamil films as they are an attempt on the road to alternative films.
Some years ago, 'Nirapirihai' launched a dialogue on the relationship between the audience and entertainment films produced for commercial reasons. But there has not been any serious effort and thought provoking analysis after that. The spread of Tamil cinema constitutes only the portrayal of songs, dance, fight sequences, excessive emotions in the garb of entertainment by showing actresses as sex objects, high caste domination, superstitions and male dominance. This trend is not exclusive to Tamil cinema, but for the world cinema too.But the directors who have seen great commercial successes have never proclaimed revolutionary rhetoric outside the ambit of their films.
The success of 'Karagattakaran' never provoked Gangai Amaran to dedicate it to Kathar. Selvamani never dedicated the success of 'Captain Prabhakaran' to the Tamil Eelam fighters. The director of 'Vyjayanthi IPS' did not dedicate his film to Rosa Luxumborg. But what prompts Seeman, whose 'Thambi' is made on the platform of ideas as the above films, to dedicate its success to Periyar and Prabhakaran? Outside the film 'Thambi,' what silly business of politics prompts director Seeman to go about dropping brave proclamations based on bogus revolutionary documents? And what kind of politics that business is? Before we could analyse these questions let us examine the screenplay and dialogues constituting dangerous casteist male centric offensive statements. 'Thambi' film differs from that of traditional "eye for an eye" stories of Tamil films.
That itself becomes important to the Dravidian journal 'Unmai.' The journal of Tamil nationalist movement 'Then Seidhi' too writes about it. What a pity! This is the central theme of 136 films of MGR. For example, let us take Gajendra Films 'Naalai Namadhe.' Mother, an embodiment of love, father, an interllectual, and three children called Shankar, Vijay and Kannan! Suddenly in a household that was the abode for cool breeze, entered the decoit Ranjit. Children were rendered helpless and ended up in different destinations. What was the end? Didn't M.G.R. grow up to be a man? Didn't he trace out the villain who destroyed their fafamily? Didn't he chase Nambiar on the railway track and proclaimed expression of justice? Despite several opportunities to wreak vengeance on Nambiar, didn't he save him and hand him over to the police in the end? Wasn't the police brought by Nagesh at that time? Everything took place. Only one thing didn't happen: MGR never announced that this film was dedicated to Annadurai...!
Suba Veerapandian in writing about the film 'Thambi' in 'Then Seidhi' was elated by the fact that photographs of Periyar, Karl Marx and Bharatidasan were hung in Thambi's house. These were the photographs that were hung inside his house. But the photograph that adorns the entrance of the house - this scene was shown not once, but twice in the film how did the Professor turn blind to that photograph? That photograph was that of Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar. The students of Marx and torchbearers of Periyar's ideologies never elevate the picture of Muthuramalinga Thevar. Muthuramalingam was directly responsible for the murder of Immanuel Sekaran, the Dalit leader.
Then it was Periyar who called for the arrest of Muthuramalingam. He was arrested. Muthuramalingam also had a Hindu fundamendalist face. He was also the leader of Hindu Maha Sabha. "Were Muthuramalingam to be alive today, it is quite likely he would be leading the hindutva movement in Tamilnadu," states A Marx (page 107 of Adhikarathai nokki unnmaigalai pesuvom). Muthuramalinga Thevar was once projected as the hero of the cause of Mukulahor community, who are known to be the caste enforcers of south Tamilnadu. So, what other than his own caste consideration lies behind the picture of Muthuramalinga Thevar hanging in the film? At this juncture, we should also take note of how Seeman made entry into the film world.
If my memory serves me right, Seeman entered the film business by writing the story and dialogue for Bharathiraja's film 'Parumpon.' Bharathiraja occupies a predominant position in the history of Tamil films as he revolutionized the cinema language in 'Kizhake Pogum Rail' and dwelt deep into the social problems in films such as 'Karuthamma.' Apart from this, not only did he produce films that portray his own caste in a better light, but also participated in the activities of caste aligned associations. The film 'Pasumpon' for which Seeman wrote the story and dialogue too, was a violent film that highlighted the greatness of a caste. It is to be noted that it was Sivaji Ganesan who assumed the role of Durairasu Thevar, the primary protagonist in this film. It is in this film that the song "Thenkasi singame Thevar Ayya engal Thevar kula thangame Thevar Ayya' is featured. And that song was composed by Vairamuthu.
Periyar used to say "ours is a language that preserves caste." Caste has minutely crept into various levels of our language. In Seeman's film 'Thambi,' characters abuse others by calling them as 'untouchable.' This word finds place right across the film. The word 'untouchable' has been employed from the time of the epics and scriptures by high caste people to deingrate Dalits. When the temple entry was organized as a protest in Madurai Meenakshi Temple, as a gesture they included two people each from the lower castes. A high caste woman Pragati who composed an abusive poem called 'Six untouchables' about this cruelty finds place in 'Immanuel Devendrar's History,' a work by Tamizhvel. Moreover, it is learnt that the 'untouchable' word finds place among India's Scheduled Castes list. How did the Censor Board allow the use of this word that indcates a caste as an abusive word in Seeman's film 'Thambi'? Even if the Censor Board had allowed it, how can Unmai, Then Seidhi, Subavee and Kovi Lenin be indifferent to this? Would the Tamil Protection Movement that Seeman is aligned with, protect Tamil only from Khushboo and not from caste?
Dedicated to Periyar, in this film too, the heroine has no connection with the story and she comes and goes like Arivumadhi Aandal Priyadarshini. Whether the students of Anna University follow the cultural fundamentalist stricture of not wearing jeans and T-shirt or not, Seeman follows it strictly. The heroine of this film who happens to be a college student always appears in a sari. Like Seeman and Madhavan, she can't wear T-shirts showing Che Guevera. At best she can get the picture of Che Guevera printed on her sari. For the crime of falling in love with a revolutionary, she has to swallow abuses like, 'Loosu,' 'Imsai' and 'Pei.' Finally when Seeman's brother accepts her love, she falls at his feet. Seeman has characterized the heroine's role on male domination thought process. One thing has to be admitted openly. Considering what people like K Balachander representing the Brahminical backward culture has portrayed the female domination half heartedly in films such as 'Aval Oru Thodarkadhai,' 'Avargal,' 'Manadhil Urudhi Vendum,' 'Achchamillai Achchamillai' and 'Agnisakshi,' the inheritors to Periyar legacy could not even match that and in the name of Tamil culture, they are going back to the culture of falling at the feet.
Right through the film that begins with a quote from Mao and ends with a quote from Che Guevera, Seeman's 'Thambi' behaves like a police mole. When the police bring criminals to the courts, Thambi provides protection to the police van as he drives in front like a pilot. The police also act indifferently to him until the end. As never before revolution, a police officer (Raj Kapur) secretly meets the revolutionary and provides him with some tips. The revolutionary and the police are working hand in hand. People don't refer to such a person as a revolutionary. On the contrary he will be condemned as a police mole. It would be revolution if the people living in the places where Veerappan was chased and Dharmapuri where the police cruelly killed the naxalites, would have slippered Seeman for having made a film like this!
Seeman is someone like the youth one finds in Ananda Vikatan's interviews who angrily litters the road or innocent people who violate the road rules. They are neither like the sex craving people who rub against others in the buses as portrayed by Seeman in the film 'Thambi,' or small time hoodlums or thugs who live on the edge of the society. They are the consequences of the society that is corrupted by the landowning and capitalist domination. The government, judiciary, police and armed services have all turned into the most violent organizations of the society. The film 'Thambi' does not mention any violence from them. On the contrary, Thambi commends a young man, "If you and I strike, it would be a crime. But when the police do it, it is the law. So, you get educated and become a policeman, become a Collector and reform the society." Seeman claims in the February 2006 issue of 'Dhagam' that the seeds of his own ideals such as Mao, Lenin and Che Guevera were sprinkled right through the film 'Thambi.' But both and Mao and Lenin always spoke of destroying the government machinery and rendering the bureaucrats and security forces powerless. They exhorted people to become revolutionaries, but never to become policemen. The proclamation, "The law is government's violence. But violence is the people's law" was the first to be announced by the international anarchist movement. One cannot expect to achieve clarity about the government machinery, the lawlessness of justice and majoritarian conspirary by roaming the streets of Kodambakkam wearing a Che Guevera tshirt or keeping a photograph of Prabhakaran in the shirt pocket. It is time director Seeman stopped blurting out these half-baked Marxism and Maoism, but start reading his own friend Thyagu's work 'Marxiyam Aana Aaavanna.' Advocate anything after getting clarity.
There is no purpose in child-like claim made by Suba Veerapandian that Seeman was the first thinker to show the photographs of Lenin, Periyar and Bharatidasan in Tamil films. MGR too showed the statue of Lenin in 'Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban.' What is it that Seeman has spoken in this film about Bharatidasan, Buddha and Anna that was not spoken by MGR?
It is said that in the film 'Nadodi Mannan' directed and acted by MGR, as soon as the 'nadodi' comes to power, most of the reforms he introduces were taken out of the declarations of the Communist Party written by Marx and Engels. Commercial consideration alone is responsible for introducing such fake revolutionary and emotional perorations in the films that start with commercial purpose.
In 1981 there came a movie 'Sivappu Malli' with fake revolutionary citations like those of 'Thambi' starring Vijayakanth and Chandrasekar. Arandai Narayanan listed the commercial considerations in those fake proclamations in this work 'Thamizh Cinemavin Kadai.' This criticism holds good for 'Nadodi Mannan,' 'Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban' and 'Anbe Sivam' too. That also includes Seeman's 'Thambi.'
What appears below is the critique of Arandai Narayanan on 'Sivappu Malli'. In 1980, from the house of AVM, Meyyappa Chettiar's sons produced a very successful movie called 'Murattu Kaalai.' During that time, there was talk in the cinema circle that a Telugu film is making tons of money in Andhra Pradesh. That film was titled as 'Erramalli.'
It was created by the communists of Andhra Pradesh. The brothers saw that film. They realized that it was a proven subject that could be made economically. It was a time of national stress and lack of peace due to the capitalist sponsored economic shortages
that situation was opposed by peasanats, labour force, students and middle class people. In answer to that, the protagonist became a red flag bearing communist in such films, like the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Hindi formula films why even the Rajnikanth starrer film 'Kali.' The AVM brothers brought the rights for the proven subject of 'Erramalli.' They released the film 1981 after modifying the screenplay to suit the Tamil sentiments. Rama Narayanan was the one who wrote the dialogues and directed theTamil version. It is the story of two youth, who protest against the land owning and capitalist domination. It is the story of a businessman who turns the clock backwards and his good wife and comic evoking three landlords. One of thelandlords has one daughter. The Tamil version shows hundreds of communist party flags, the pictures of Lenin, Periyar and Annadurai in the procession. If some of the dialogues and the communist party flags were to be removed, 'Sivappu Malli' was a film of MGR style. Excellent collections. (P 714 of 'Thamizh Cinemavin Kadhai').
Even in the film 'Thambi,' if a couple of quotations and one dialogue are removed, Seeman's Thambi is a film of Vijayakanth's bani.
If AVM was the organization that supported Rama Narayanan's film 'Murattu Kaalai,' Murali Manohar of 'Jeans' film fame stood by Seeman. If the Tamil peasants, labour force and students were cheated by AVM and Rama Narayanan, it was the turn of Murali Manohar and Seeman to do the same on Eelam Tamils. Today there are about ten lakh Eelam Tamils who have migrated to several countries. It is said that they are the ones who decide the business income of Tamil films. The cinema craze of refugee Eelam Tamils is no less than that of any other people. They are the people who made films such as 'Kaadalukku Mariyadai' and 'Autograph' successes. 'Captain Prabhakaran' is said to have had the longest run in Paris city than any other Tamil film. It was for that title that it had the longest run. For the same reason, Seeman's film made with the same commercial motivation had successful run in places with large refugee population.
For the very title the film had a very successful run. For the self same commercial considerations, Seeman's film 'Thambi' too had a successful release in places with refugee population. Though we have a lot of opinions about the leadership of Tamil rebels and their narrow nationalist sentiments, we are not going to forget the sacrifices of the innocent people and legitimate protests of the grass root level fighters that launched the Tamil Eelam protest movement, against the majoritarian Sinhala governments' cruel genocides.
What the comrades from Tamilnadu had contributed to the Eeelam struggle is beyond measure. To protect the rights of Eelam Tamils, some of them self-immolated themselves. In cooperation with students and youth they extended great service to the Eelam refugees. Many took it upon themselves as their life's calling to spread the justification for the fight for Eelam. Some Tamil friends have even got trained in warfare to participate in the fight for Eelam. For supporting the casue of Eelam, countless numbers are languishing in prisons for years on end. Some friends have given their hearts, souls and wounds for Tamil liberation and having seen some fellow comrades killed brutally, some like Maavarasu have become mentally ill and vanished without a trace. All these constitute the struggle for Tamil Eelam.
Today, the Tamil Eelam sruggle may be misdirected by a very narrow nationalism, culturural fundamentalism and bowing down to international power equation and fascism. But the forces that made the Eelam struggle to start against the racial suppression continue to remain the same. The next step would be to move the Eelam struggle that has got estsranged in the gullies of politics and army and make it democratic by defeating fascism. The people behind the movement should be moving in this direction.
But these things are of no consideration to film businessman Seeman who procialms to be a supporter of Tamil Eelam. He is giving interviews to media and television projecting only Prabhakaran as the sole fighter for Eelam. He propounds the theory that Prabhakaran is the present day happening of Purananooru. By dropping names like the support of Tamil Tigers, Tamil Protection Movement, Periyar and Ambedkar, he is trying to own a position among the refugee population. He is careful in spinning his business web. His calculating mind is very open. He cribs that except Madhavan, no top actor came forward to do the lead role in 'Thambi.' Director Nimoy Ghosh of 'Paadhai Theriyudhu Paar,' director Harikiran of 'Ezhavadhu Manidhan' and director Sridhar Rajan of 'Kann Sivandhaal Mann Sivakkum' did not hanker or crib about callsheets from top actors. With newcomers and actors without proven commercial saleability, they made unforgettable films that have stood the test of time. Seeman cribbed that only Madhavan had the courage to wear the Che Guevara t-shirt and act in 'Thambi.' The same man does not hesitate to give an interview in Ananda Vikatan that his next film would feature a top star like Vikram or Vijay whose call sheet he is after.
In Amsterdam, they used to have Bob Marley's image as the icon in the outlets selling Ganja. The multinationals, who used to manufacure t-shirts had Che Guevera's image to sell them internationally. Similarly for Seeman, using the name of Prabhakaran is a publicity gimmick to draw attention to his film. The Eelam issue is a proven subject for him. Many people profit through the war for Eelam. On one hand we have the arms dealers, politicians and army bigwigs who in the name of war are making money. On the other hand we have newspapers vouching for Tamil desam, university professors, intellectuals, the planning people of NGOs, people who talk about Tamil nationalism, head priests in temples and so on, who are benefitting greatly in this war for Tamil Eelam. Now for his part, we have director Seeman joining these people to quench his thirst.
When there is flood in the river, what else can one do than to quench one's thirst!