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Sad That People of Tamil Nadu are Still Under Cinematic-political Spell: TM Krishna

The recent spate of statue vandalisation of figures like BR Ambedkar, Periyar, Lenin reported from different parts of the country led renowned Carnatic musician TM Krishna to team up with Tamil writer Perumal Murugan to stage a protest in the form of a song titled Works of Art.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:April 2, 2018, 5:44 PM IST
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Sad That People of Tamil Nadu are Still Under Cinematic-political Spell: TM Krishna
A file photo of Carnatic musician TM Krishna.
Chennai: The recent spate of statue vandalisation of figures like BR Ambedkar, Periyar, Lenin reported from different parts of the country led renowned Carnatic musician TM Krishna to team up with Tamil writer Perumal Murugan to stage a protest in the form of a song titled Works of Art. Krishna, in an interview to CNN-News18's Poornima Murali, said statue vandalism is clearly a move to "push the Hindutva agenda in Tamil Nadu" and the first target is Periyar and the self-respect movement. He also said that the present time is for revitalisation, correction and taking conversations forward. The famous musician also dwelt on the state of politics in Tamil Nadu and said it was wonderful that more people were entering the political arena. But the musician found it "unfortunate that they are coming only from the film world".

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

Q) Tamil Nadu has been in a state of flux. What is your analysis of the developments over the last one year?
A) It is an important period in Tamil Nadu’s politics. We have without doubt hit rock bottom in the politics that we practise. Apathy and fear permeates Tamil society. The Dravidian movement had gifted us a socio-cultural consciousness that we manipulated so much that the spirit of Periyar has nearly died in this state. But now is the time for revitalisation, correction and taking conversations forward. It is not just about political outfits or politicians, you and I have to grasp this moment and engage.

Q) RK Nagar bypoll was a surprise to many. Will cash for votes decide who will rule the state?
A) There can be no doubt that money plays an important role in Indian elections. But do not underestimate the voter. They may accept money (from both sides) but they do not vote based on the respective amounts received. They are sharp and clever enough to outwit politicians who think money will do it. TTV’s victory is not just a result of the weakness in the AIADMK and lethargy of the DMK, it is as much got to do with the fact that TTV has been an active AIADMK functionary in the Jayalalitha-Sasikala era. We were mistaken when we wrote his epitaph in a hurry.

Q) Political observers say BJP attacking TTV has helped him garner sympathy votes?
A) Right now BJP is a non-starter in Tamil Nadu, which is why they are hoping to back channel their way into the minds of the Tamils. I do not think they had such an impact on the RK Nagar elections.

Q) Considering the political uncertainty in the state, we have stars like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan announcing their entry into politics. What kind of an impact can they make?
A) It is wonderful that more people are entering the political arena. But it is unfortunate that they are coming only from the film world. It is sad that we the people of Tamil Nadu continue to be under the cinematic-political spell long after Tamil cinema has moved away from its modern Dravidian origins. We have to learn to recognise political energy, spirit that lies beyond the reel.

Q) Kamal Haasan has launched a political party and is touring the state. Voters say he hasn't made his ideologies clear yet? Kamal, however, has reiterated that he will fight corruption. All politicians have promised the same earlier as well? But can Kamal be the change?
A) Over the past eight months Kamal has been saying a lot of right things and bringing into focus the emptiness in governance. But the anti-corruption bugle is not loud enough to make an impact in Tamil Nadu. The voter has heard this for years from every party and without doubt is skeptical. Kamal needs to speak about caste, education, agriculture, job creation, gender and investments. He needs to offer a fresh set of ideas to inspire support and has to move beyond the reactive or making larger Tamil-identity statements.

Q) Rajinikanth has not yet announced his party but analysts say his speech at ACS college was to woo the vote bank of the AIADMK by praising MGR. Now, he says he is not a full-time politician yet. What is your take on Rajini's statements over the last one year?
A) I have no idea. Rajini has given us nothing. Driven by the need for ‘breaking news’, the press is giving too much importance to one speech. We have to ask whether the MGR legacy is still relevant. I am not so sure. Rajini is trying to fashion himself as some kind of a jnani-politician (spiritually awakened) which in Tamil Nadu will not work. Having said all this about Kamal and Rajini, you never know, the people of Tamil Nadu may prove me wrong.

Q) Voters of Tamil Nadu want a change. Who, according to you, can bring in that change?
A) If there are elections today, DMK may just come through. Irrespective of who comes to power, I think everyone realises that things cannot be as they were. Tamil Nadu has to change, we the people have to become political. I am optimistic that it will happen.

Q) You've composed a song along with Mr Perumal Murugan against the vandalism of statues. We have seen a slew of attacks in the last three weeks. Do you think political parties are trying to gain political mileage through these issues?
A) Political parties will always attempt to take advantage of issues that give them leverage. But this does not diminish the dangerousness of such acts. This is clearly a move to push the Hindutva agenda in Tamil Nadu and the first target is Periyar and the self-respect movement. Let us not forget that Rath Yatra followed these acts. As Tamils, we cannot allow this to happen. Periyar and the Dravidian movement need to be debated, but any attempt to erase our history or beliefs must be thwarted that is why in the song we have said that irrespective of whether it is Periyar or Perumal, a statue is a work of art, in fact a marker of the people.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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