The curtains opened. The stage had been set up and in came the man everyone has been waiting for. With a histrionic music in the background. Arms enclosed in one another, he stood facing the crowd. And then came a powerful voice from somewhere in the depths of his throat that was both exciting and arresting. Probably one of the most powerful shows in Tamil Nadu, Bigg Boss’s Saturday nights open to huge expectations for actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan’s brilliant eloquence and politics-topped innuendos, that mostly wouldn’t make sense right there, but probably on your way back home. This is how Aandavar has branded himself: an armed pistol, an inked-up pen.
Kamal has never shied away from critiques: both inside and outside of a set. He brandishes a sword high and mighty every time his language is even a little bruised and has been surprisingly vocal about unnecessary Hindi influence into India’s forlorn south. When two women of a Bengali-origin appeared onto the show, he knew he had to bank his words toward the favor of the people that had all the indescribably lonesome power of democracy in their hands: MRP 2500 and plate of Biriyani worth ink on their fore-finger. Being an aristocrat and a reasonable gentleman, a fruit of the west, a Marlon Brando fanatic, Kamal is inherently aware of the distance he has to maintain to stay as knee-deep in contemporary issues as he is aloof: a technique partisans handle to win the vote bank. So he danced to the rhythms of Tamil strings: he criticized the women’s clothes or lack thereof. He sang the tune akin to a heavily nationalism-laden, hypocritical opinion of a famous villain actor in the show, reprimanded the girls, his voice and forefinger raised. And then he twirled his mustache announcing yet another break in the show.
So what exactly is Tamil culture? Does it dictate what women should or shouldn’t wear? Does Tamil sit on its haunches, come up with rules that need to be followed out of labor or vision: a traditional silk saree clad, kaili wearing hermaphrodite that is impartial to men and women? Women should sit a certain way, their knees together, sip tea without siiirrrup noise, while serving beef-less curry to an IPL watching husband. Following a set of unwritten rules immediately granted the woman superhuman powers of Tamil: a Wonder Woman, a Cat Woman grimacing Tamil Woman. Marvel logo reveals. Spider webs. Trucks spins in the air. Good people are saved. End of story. “–we are only going to have to make a Tamil girl/guy win the title of Bigg Boss,” an ultimatum read, a result of a meeting only exclusive elites of Tamil men and woman. They were all wearing Saris and Veshtis.
This nationalism is in striking contrast to today’s thinking in Tamil youth: they understand the need to protect their farmers/jallikattu is not borne of Tamil nationalism, but of humanity. Those that weren’t sitting under sweltering sun or biting cold were rolling up their sleeves to become key-board warriors. Welcoming new changes unto the society will never be brought forth by fiercely adhering to conservatism. Twitter and facebook are littered with thoughts similar to this. The veteran actor that spoke of love and liberalism through his movie Anbe Sivam also has a staunch presence in Social Media and is watching all this with his Barathi turban-clad profile picture.
“Tamil culture is just an address,” announced Kamal Hassan, with no gasps in between the two somersaults that he just partook in, “it is not a status.” That is an Aandavar that I want to be as my leader. Telling the two Bengali girls that they need to behave a certain way to be welcomed by Tamil people is inherently racist: the kind that assumes Bengal is filled with Victoria’s Secret clad women (that incidentally a place that I want to grow up in). The ultra-human lordship that grants men the power to dictate the rules of Tamil cultur, moreover, is sexist. (There, I said it). Kamal Hassan is quick to imbibe new things: this is what made him a successful actor, producer, and the list goes on, and finally a great politician in the making.
Nationalism in any form is corruptive. Fierce adherence to a language, religion, or country will strip the inherent truth of reality: the boundaries that split up minorities in a country, the societal problems of communal living, and a good upbringing of future citizens–all hallmarks of a healthy nation. It grants you power to belittle people that look, speak, and behave differently than you. It starts with an almost insane possessiveness of Kashmir that teaches kids that it is an integral part of India without any proof to unwarranted cold-war between two vessel-sharing housewives in a neighborhood, it bears a stamp of shame that we all, in one way or the other, should participate in.