Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cut-Outs, Caste And Cine Stars

The book by Vaasanthi, takes a look at the "Dravidian" politics in Tamil Nadu starting from the beginning, right from EVR, until the DMK sweep in 2004.

Although the politics in Tamil Nadu, by itself, makes for an interesting discussion, the subject really is a bit complex to bring out in paper. I think the book succeeds in bringing out the "psyche" of the "tamil" people which may be completely baffling for a stranger, considering the fact that the politics in Tamil Nadu is riddled with paradoxes and controversies (sample this: how can you explain millions of people accepting a Karnataka born brahmin woman, or, for that matter a Sri-Lankan born Malayalee as the head of a party whose ideologies stand for "anti-brahminism" and "Tamil-ness"?)

The author tries to keep things simple by maintaining a non-conversational tone throughout the book. She tries to present facts rather than take a stand which works to the favor of the book.

However, I do have a few reservations about the book. I would have preferred a more chronological approach rather than the back-again, forward-again, time traveling that happens a lot which is confusing in several places. Also, even though the book tries hard to remain neutral, a slight pro-Karunanidhi, or rather, an anti-Jayalathitha vibe comes out at the end, thanks mainly to the several personal quotes of Karunanidhi that are reproduced, through which he tries to justify himself.

The author is an ex-editor of the tamil edition of "India today" and that not only adds her a lot of credibility but also seems to have helped her in getting most of inside information that she dishes out. Her several personal encounters, experiences and anecdotes act as the spices in this delicious curry of tamil politics that the author has served, and although the final dish may not have you licking your fingers, it certainly fills the stomach.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has watched and liked "Iruvar". The book is almost a paper version of the movie, with a prequel (about EVR, Annadurai, and the rise of DK) and a sequel (with Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha). In fact, the book even references the movie once while talking about Karunanidhi protesting against "Hindi" on railway tracks !!

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