Its happening again. Actor Karthis Komban, due for release this week, is in the eye of the storm after K. Krishnasamy, leader of the pro-Dalit party, Puthiya Thamilagam, demanded a ban on the film saying that it would incite violence in the State.
The call for a ban has stemmed from the fear that the film could be glorifying the Thevar community, dominant in Tamil Nadus southern districts. This has triggered yet another debate on censorship and relevance of censor board in Tamil Nadu.
While freedom of speech and expression must be defended, one must also be empathetic and create space for those who disagree with the film, say intellectuals and filmmakers.
Tamil and Dalit intellectuals have criticised the film for glorifying the Thevar community, a politically and socially dominant community in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu
Filmmaker Prabhakaran’s Sundarapandian, featuring actor Sasi Kumar in the lead role, was accused of sensationalising caste pride and honour killing in the opening sequences of the film.
The director of Komban, M. Muthaiah’s earlier film was also hauled up for its pro-Thevar tilt. The film was accused of glorifying the dominant caste group in southern districts and endorsing anti-Dalit views.
The adoption of market economy coincided with the nation-wide mobilisation of dominant backward castes in India, which had its impact on cinema as well. Other egs: Chinna Gounder, Ejaman
Ravikumar, a Tamil intellectual and member of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, said there is a difference between freedom of speech and freedom to spew hate. The former must be defended, while the latter has to be condemned, he said.
With southern districts of Tamil Nadu seeing a rise in caste-related violence in recent times, an artist must not just view cinema as commodity to be monetised but as cultural product that will have a social impact, he said.
Just like cinema commodifies sex and violence, it has commodified hate as well. In a society where the message of equality is uncommon, an artist must challenge caste-pride and not normalise it, he added.