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Why MGR’s Fans See(k) a God in Him? – II

Gods do not belong only to heavens, at least in Tamil Nadu. They can be created in the minds of the urban and rural poor in Tamil Nadu solely through adulatory voyeurism. What is adulatory voyeurism? It is the the means through which ordinary mortals can be effectively distanced from the rest of the society and made to exist on heavenly planes on earth. Here propitiation of the object of desire is the key to the process. Unlike in conventional voyeurism, wherein the possession of the object of desire is the key determinant of the relationship between the voyeur and the object of desire, in adulatory voyeurism the veneration of the object of desire is extended to the point where the humans who exist as objects of desire are made to erase their real personae and exist as gods, living or otherwise. MGR as a god is a classical byproduct of adulatory voyeurism.

MGR as a god was born and nurtured in the subaltern cinema consciousness of MGR fans. The fact that MGR was a human and a mortal is yet to strike chords in the minds of scores of his fans who can not see MGR as a human. MGR was a human who struggled to eke out livelihood when he was longing for a career in cinema. MGR lacked opportunities to succeed� in life in his early life and career. In contrast, gods are not perceived to be lacking in� anything as they are the omniscient providers. The good break came when he landed lead roles after his acquintance with Mrs Janaki (an actor who later became his wife). And his career took a dramatic boost after his entry into the fold of DMK as a party actor.

When his fans venerate MGR as a god in 2007, 20 years after his death, there is a case for arguing in favour of the factor of transcedence proposed earlier. But there is also an equally good case for arguing against the transcendence factor. MGR could transcend his real image or personae and leave only his screen image for his worshippers not only because of the factor of transcedence, but also because of the serious erosion of the sense of rationality and duty on the part of his audience. If one were to apply the Kantian logic, they lack(ed) the key determinant of ethical behaviour, the sense of duty. The sense of duty, governed by a rational mind, would not allow for the emergence of either the factor of transcedence nor the ethical slip on the part of his fans. The ethical slip on the part of his fans is not only borne of the lack of sense of duty, but also of the adulatory cultural milieu that has held sway over the minds of the subalterns down the centuries. Tamils, then and now, require humans-turned-gods to survive as humans. God making is a historically validated cultural process in Tamil Nadu. For instance, it is difficult to isolate the ‘origina’l gods from the puranic gods and humans-turned-gods by looking at the scores of sculptures of gods in any of the scores of Tamil Nadu temples. God making evolves out of myth making and myth making is integral to adulatory voyeurism. The making of MGR as a god, borne of his screen personae, is only the most recent in a long line in the historical successions of humans-turned-gods.

2 comments

1 admin { 02.24.07 at 5:39 am }

Crikey! This argument strikes at the heart of the “valorisation” of Indian audiences as agents. Many practitioners have questioned the Indian audience’s visual literacy and their awe of the power of images. Some academics have stigmatised them as being condescending towards audiences. On the other hand, some academics argue that fan activity shows that they can exert influence over the star (s. v. srinivas’ work). Many researchers in the west are concluding that the image has powers to validate pre-existing myths and beliefs. I completely agree with your argument here.

2 G Ravindran { 02.25.07 at 1:31 am }

Thank you, Kishore. There is more to followup in coming to terms with the cultural politics of Tamil cinema. Hope to do justice in the coming days.

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