C N Annadurai: The Progenitor of Tamil Political Cinema II
There is a greater need now than ever before to subject the so called golden age of Dravidian movement and the contributions of its key shapers like CN Annadurai and Periyar to critical theorising on a plane devoid of popular and often misleading approaches. The popular and misleading approaches of the curious lay persons and media always root for the role of cinema in Dravidian politics, the movement’s anti-Hindi campaign and its earlier anti-brahmin struggles. In the absence of any substantive theorising on the above and the key phases/contributions of Dravidian movement, there is bound to be a spurt in such approaches. In recent times, however, there is a renewed interest in the need to take a critical look at the subject. For instance, one finds interesting theoretical pointers in the words of scholars like Karthigesu Sivathamby when he points to the de-ideologisation of Dravidian movement for its decline. From a Marxist perspective, this sounds relevant. But it would be interesting to know how CNA or Periyar would have reacted to the decline of the movement if they are around.
To them, the ideologisation of the movement was not structured on the lines of classical Marxism even though there were deep shadows of classical Marxism in the words and deeds of CNA and Periyar. Periyar’s atheism was as much culturally conditioned as CNA’s political readings of classical sangam literature unlike the atheist politics of Soviet Marxism. Moreover, it is obvious that any social movement can not be launched or sustained for such a long period without an underpinning ideology. We may dispute the tenor of the ideologies Periyar and CNA fashioned, but one can not deny that from the times of the Justice Party, the other name for the Dravidian politics was the ideological opposition it articulated against the prevailing social and political conditions that disadvantaged the backward classes, dravidians and Tamils.
Periyar would have sensed the first step towards the decline of the movement when DMK was founded under CNA’s leadership. Nonetheless, Periyar’s ideology of social reform rooted in atheism was alive and kicking even after the exit of his ardent followers. Then and now, the decline is not due to the demise of ideological politics, but due to the ascendency of new sets of decadent modes of survivalist politics like casteist politics and cultist politics. CNA and Periyar had the intellectual merit to survive both extremes of ideologisation and de-ideologisation the movement experienced. My image of CNA corresponds to my image of his mentor, Periyar. CNA was as honest as his mentor and as striking as a thorughbred intellectual as his teachers. Indian politics rarely had politicians who were intellectuals. In the age of snobbish and Westernised political environment, only few intellectuals like CNA could muster their intellectual and communicative talents to be relevant to their largely impoverished and oppressed constituencies.