eDhvani (UoH Journal of Comparative Literature, ISSN 2279-0209) Issue 2, January 2013.
Madurai-based films as a study of caste representation in Tamil cinema are common — in academic circles and otherwise. This group of filmmakers — Sasikumar, Balaji Sakthivel, Ameer and similar — being called ’new wave’ for their raw/realistic portrayal of life in Madurai is also not new. In this paper, the author explores the deliberate intertwining of the ideas of caste, criminality, civilization, citizenship and community (I swear I didn’t do this on purpose) in films set in Madurai, that makes it different from the others we’ve read so far.
After defining ‘third wave’ (jumping from Dravidian/political cinema as first wave to Mani Ratnam as second wave), when the author gets to the idea of these film characters being ‘conscripts of modernity’, the paper hooks one in.
Could identities and spaces marked by caste and crime become “conscripts of modernity”?
The author takes us through the idea of a deviant and dangerous hero, in Madurai, living in the middle of excessive violence and caste bigotry. He says, the heroes’ “representations provide the citizen-spectator a dangerous/deviant “other” as an identification to (dis)engage with.”
While discussing Kaadhal, he argues that “the fact that the heroic-subject is made mentally insane through the articulation of caste bigotry is an important facet to understand the problems of spectator identification/citizen-subject. Murugan’s deviance is structurally located in his caste status according to the cinematic apparatus. Hence, his caste-located-body becomes a conscript of cinema.”
The rest of the paper on Paruthiveeran and Subramaniapuram makes eloquent arguments about this “wave” of films and what they do to citizen-spectators and their identification with the ‘conscript’.