Friday, June 17, 2011



By Veli Rangarajan

Translation of Veli Rangarajan’s article in Tamil captioned ULAGATH THAMIZH MAANAADUM THAMIZH PADAIPPAALIGALUM( appeared in the June 2010 issue of Kalachuvadu. _Translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan

(*Veli Rangarajan is a name to reckon with in the Little Magazine Circle of Tamil and his plays, literary reviews and articles on socio-political and literary issues having both contemporary and historical relevance have appeared in almost all the important Literary Magazines of Tamil and there are quite a number of publications to his credit.

His plays AGALIGAI, VANJAMAGAL, OOZHIKOOTHU, MADHAVI and MADHARI have won wide-acclaim from the discerning viewers.

He brought forth a literary magazine titled VELI to create awareness and sensitivity about the aesthetics, nuances and subtleties of theatre. For a period of ten years, from 1990 – 2000 VELI was published and in all there were around 40 issues which served the cause of promoting Theatre-arts.

Veli Rangarajan can be aptly called a positive link and bridge between individuals and groups with different perspectives but who have commitment and integrity in their approach to Life and Literature; Art and Society.

This article, which raises several important points to ponder regarding the status of Tamil Life and Language was originally written in Tamil by him and has been published in the June 2010 issue of Kalachuvadu, a noted Tamil Monthly. And, its English translation is given here.
Several months back a Tamil professor whom I respect a lot contacted me over the phone from Madurai and asked me whether I could take part in Semmozhi Meet and present a Paper. I told him that the literary personalities should realize the inopportune time of the Meet and also the real purpose of holding such a mammoth meet at this particular time and take a stand. He didn’t insist but left it at that, saying that he could understand my feelings.

There has been a systematic move to alienate those having reservation about holding Semmozhi Meet at this juncture as pro-LTTE. But, the fact being that there is no need for anybody to be an LTTE sympathizer to understand the pretentious, opportunistic political game of DMK in Eelam issue. This is an out and out unbiased stand in support of the cause of human rights and against the inhuman cruelties and indignities being meted out to an ethnic clan; a section of humanity. And, whether or not an LTTE sympathizer, any discerning individual can take this stand.

Therefore, the mammoth Semmozhi Meet conceived and being convened by the DMK government which continues to play its opportunistic game in Eelam issue is to be protested against. Apart from this political standpoint this move should also be approached and criticized culturally and linguistically. For, the cultural and linguistic scenario prevailing in Tamil Nadu is no secret. And, the writers and literary personalities can get an acute feel of it day-in and day-out.

.In our play-rehearsals I come across many, even well-educated ones, who find it difficult to read and recite Tamil dialogues. In my school days there was the practice of reading aloud our lessons and reciting passages from our Prose and Poetry lessons with the right tone and pauses. Only when we read and recite aloud we would be able to become intimate with the shades and subtleties of the usage of any language. Reciting aloud the lines of Thevaram, Thiruppaavai etc., we used to acquire a great feel insight into the nuances and peculiarities Thus, it was the Literary merits of Tamil Literature which was introduced to us during our school days that gave us an impetus to pursue reading more works in Tamil – the classical ones and the contemporary ones.

But, as things stand today, even among those who have M.A., M.Phil and P.hd Degrees in Tamil to their credit, with the exception of a few, there aren’t many who have a vibrant relationship with the language Tamil. That is, they treat and handle the language in a mechanical manner, from the exam-oriented and employment-oriented point of view alone. It has nothing to do with their imaginative and innovative creativity. When I chanced to visit the Tamil Departments of several colleges I felt very sad to see the way the Tamil Departments were functioning as an abandoned faculty. The teachers and students of the Tamil Departments were functioning with a kind of resigned indifference, with no faith nor confidence in the long-lasting utility of the knowledge of Tamil and many of them were nurturing a kind of inferiority complex, so to say. In the present world, with the onset of globalization, the study of Geography, History, Science, Literature, Philosophy and Fine Arts have great potentials but unfortunately these Departments in Schools and Colleges leave much to be desired and are blissfully ignorant of their potentials and uses and lag behind.

Even at the doctorate levels only very little has taken place by way of research in the case of Inscriptions, Art, Dance, Forms of Koothu, Musical Instruments, Philosophical pursuits etc., and they await the day when the possibility of having comprehensive discussions, debates, researches on their various aspects would at last arise.

Only a handful of persons who are endowed with the sense of modernity of thought and who are familiar with the contemporary literary trends have the ability and initiative to look beyond the syllabus and associate their academic study of Tamil Literature with their very life. And, only a handful of teachers at the college level are capable of guiding their students in realizing this link. It Is true that there are a whole lot of possibilities in our midst to explore and expand the boundaries of Literary Studies and to acquire new approaches and attitudes to widen the scope of these studies, the enthusiasm, will and determination to put them into practice prove abysmally low and lacking. There is not much of institutional support to such initiatives, even at the higher education level which is sad indeed.

In the colleges of Tamil Nadu Drama is yet to be acknowledged as a field that merits a separate Department. IN almost all the States of India there exists an exclusive Centre for promoting Performing Arts. But, nothing of that sort we have here, in Tamil Nadu. The Government of Tamil Nadu which has for decades and decades remained indifferent to the folk-arts which reflect the aesthetics of ordinary people, has of late resorted to show-casing them in Chennai Sangamam, once in every year, very much in the fashion of holding an annual fair. But, as the folklorists depend on their art-forms for their daily-bread they are to be nurtured on a continuous basis. In order to protect these art-forms from decay and to bring them into the main-stream of life it becomes imperative for each district to have a Performing- Arts Centre.

If only the Government of Tamil Nadu which is ready to spend a whopping 300 crore rupees for holding the Semmozhi Meet come forward to shell out a few crores and provide proper infrastructure in Schools and Colleges and so encourage the learning and pursuit of the Study of Literature and Fine-Arts a whole lot of younger generation would be benefited. But, without resorting to such constructive initiatives this government is interested in holding Meets in the manner of celebrations, full of pomp and show and empty rhetoric. In the 40 years when the Dravidian Parties were in power in Tamil Nadu three World Tamil Meet have taken place so far. But, sadly, they had all been held as festivals of the Party in Power, used to shower eulogies on their respective leaders and for employing high-sounding words in the name of doing Tamil proud and if one is to review the quality of Tamil in the field of Education as well as in other areas, if one is to review the quality of Tamil writings which enjoyed the State patronage, if one Is to review the status of Fine-Arts and Folk-Arts in these years, the encouragement and patronage extended to them, the extent of introduction made possible into the realms of the world literature and that of the regional literature of various parts of the world, one is bound to feel dissatisfied and frustrated.

It was only through Tamil Little Magazines which enjoyed no patronage from the Government and through the efforts of those discerning writers and artists that enabled quality works to come in Tamil and thus enabled Tamil language and literature to keep making their presence felt in the global arena and also to have a congenial and progressive literary climate in the Tamil Land.

At this juncture it is also important to review the kind of programmes that are being churned out by the various branches of Mass-Media – print and visual media in particular which are under the purview of the State. With abject taste and having absolutely no sensitivity these branches of Media have been promoting all kinds of trashes, having just their commercial viability as the sole criteria for their selection. The way these mass-media programmes romanticize violence, perversity and commercialize woman and the adverse impacts resulted out of these depictions, especially on the impressionable minds can be clearly seen in our midst. Domestically as well as socially human relationships have reached an all time low for which we can cite the values propagated by these mass-media as the foremost reason. Conveniently forgetting the fact that our Tamil culture had given equal status to women and so much of freedom to them, realizing their significant contribution towards the well-being of  society, today these mass-media highlight a terrible adverse attitude about women and their role in the society. They never care to take up issues which are of paramount importance to the overall development of individual, society and humanity as a whole. They never care to take into account the changing scenario of the society and respond to it in a constructive manner. They are never concerned with contributing what little they can for preparing a healthy environment to the present and future generations.

Corrupt politics, violence unleashed and the mass-media filled with sexual perversities aplenty – have all demeaned the values of life and have torn apart the very fabric of Tamil culture and Tamil society. In the great Tamil epic Silappadhikaram the friendly woman Maadhari would give shelter to Kannagi and try to keep her spirits high. When she learns about Kovalan’s death in Madurai she would feel so terrible not being able to save those who came to her seeking shelter and the sense of guilt would kill her. Poet Kamban raised voice against the authority of King Kulothungan. There were songs eulogizing the powers that be but in equal number, if not more, we have verses protesting against authority and autocracy. Thus, the Tamil society had always been a significant one in its views and style of functioning. But, as things stand today even those having immense creative potentials vie with each other to be in the good books of the powers-that-be in order to climb up the ladder of fame, for the sake of acknowledgement and recognition. Here it is worthy of mention that writer Kaalabairavan has written a stinging satire against the culture of self-glorifying awards.

Today’s true literature is but an expression in the direction of those numerous little narratives that lie scattered outside the boundaries of the centralized monolithic power and authority.

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