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Periyar Review

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By: Settu Shankar
Friday, May 04, 2007
Just imagine about the land of the Tamil people without a saviour like Periyar...it is simply inconceivable! E.V. Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar gave an identity and a sense of self-respect to the suppressed people in a fascist social environment. If a youngster cares to go through the life history of the revolutionary leader, he might be spared many grievous, sleepless nights due to his ignorance on the champion of the helpless, backward people. Periyar was not just an individual but is an ageless ideology for the down-trodden masses. He was the real crusader against all the prevalent social disparities and evils in the name of religion and god. In the present cosmopolitan world of the pizzas and hamburgers, we don't really know much about the pains of untouchablity, human slavery and the grief of suppressed women in the society. Thanks to Periyar and his comrades, they laid a strong foundation for the abolishment of all these social evils. Periyar, the man with a silver beard and a noble heart was one of the chief architects in the reconstruction of Indian society.

Right from the beginning, Periyar predominantly fought against the Brahmins who were the chief cause of imbalances in the society. Moreover, he was the only reformist to compel the backward people to emerge out of their own caste set-up. He sacrificed his entire political career for the sake of the implementation of reservation for the backward and scheduled caste people. He refused the chair of Chief Ministership twice, and vowed to keep himself away from any form of govt. or political post.

It is a hard task to present a larger than life persona of a legendary, revolutionary and a visionary leader like Periyar in a 3- hour- long celluloid drama. Once, Dr.M.Kalaignar Karunanithi, one of the disciples of Periyar, mentioned in the preface of his book 'Explanation to Thirukkural' that his efforts in giving a new meaning to the Thirukkural was like draping a golden shawl around the great Himalayas. The film on Periyar honours him in a similar but sensible way!

Director Gnanarajasekaran has weaved the script including all important historical events that occurred during Periyar's life, without missing out on or messing up with any facts. He has duly honoured a real crusader in the history of modern India. The ardent functionaries or followers of Periyar can find one thing clearly; the director has discreetly kept himself away from any controversial event associated with Periyar. He just makes a mention of all such issues in the film and has thus avoided precipitating further caste animosity. If he had picturised the event, often quoted by Periyar as 'the most important one'- the slapping of the Pillayar and Krishnar idols with chappals, it might have caused a furore in the state. He may have diplomatically avoided such controversies through his mature approach, but nevertheless, it has prevented the present generation from knowing about Periyar's aggressive approach towards the caste system and Manu Dharma.

The Story:
There is no need for a briefing about the life history of the father of the self- respect movement. Periyar was born in Erode, and was the son of a businessman Venkatappa Naicker. His life's sole mission was preaching and inculcating right moral values in others, which he started at the tender age of 19. Hailing from a very small town, he went on to become a person of national prominence. Until his last breath, Periyar continued his crusade against the brahmins and brahmanism. At the same time he never emphasised the killing of all brahmins to bring about equality. He only said that a brahmin should give up his feeling of superiority, and try to treat everyone with respect and a sense of equality. In the last scene when he is on the deathbed, he is shown as saying : "I'm leaving the world with an unfulfilled wish. I did not come to the world to fight with a tiny group or break the stone sculptures of the so-called gods. It has been my everlasting grief that I'm leaving my people with the stamp of Manu Sutras or Panchamas on them. It should be erased completely, and then only my people can enjoy real social freedom. If that ever happens, it will be the happiest day for me...' The viewers in the auditorium watched this last scene with tears in their eyes; one person actually cried out loudly, and left the hall in mournful silence.

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