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Tamil cinema.

1. Introduction

"The 20th century can plausibly be described as the 'first age of mass media'" (McQuail, 2005, p. 50). Cinema as a popular medium of entertainment is now more than a century old. Comparatively only recently has society realized cinema's great potential as an instrument of entertainment, instruction, motivation, and construction. Developing countries in their effort to accelerate the processes of economic and social change have taken this popular medium as their best means of supplementing or replacing the traditional communication forms. Even with the arrival of radio and television, satellite and Internet communication, the crucial role of cinema and its myriad possibilities in social change and development have still to be explored (Hopkinson, 1971, p. 5). The whole world identifies with the cinema and thus it becomes a universal medium. The truth is that the global community is aware of and accepts the influence and impact of cinema on the society (Subramanian, 1990, p. 6). What makes this art form so captivating is that it caters not only to the needs of people but also provides a visual space for them to live their dreams as it tells the story more effectively and creatively.

"The recent commemoration of the centenary of the cinema was a global event and a cause for celebration" (Krishnamswamy, 2001, p. 137). But it has taken more than 70 years for a global audience to come to terms with the cinematic medium, to liberate it from theater and literature. People had to wait until their consciousness caught up with their technology. The medium provides the only true language used as a recording instrument. The recorded subject, however, is not the external human condition (object) but the filmmaker's consciousness, perceptions, and process (Youngblood, 1970, pp. 75-76).

Cinema technology shapes and records the objective and subjective realities of every person (p. 128). In the analysis of social change and development, the role of cinema has been recognized as critical. Mass communication in general accelerates and expands the spread of knowledge in the developing world and cinema has an important role as it increases the speed in social development and change. Cinema teaches new desires and satisfaction, new morality and ethics, devotion and worship, new paths and means of attaining power. It portrays role models particularly for children and youth to imitate (David, 1983, p. 2).

Understanding the function of art and technology in a given cultural environment is very important because people are conditioned by the cultural environment, and the cultural environment comes from the media network (Youngblood, 1970, p. 54). That people are conditioned by media, especially by the cinema rather than by nature, is witnessed particularly in an area like Tamil Nadu state in southern India. This review, then, will provide some background and history of Tamil cinema, examine its roles in Tamil society, discuss the industry's structure, provide information about consumption, and finally look at how cinema plays a role in social change and identity production in Tamil Nadu.

A. Cinema as an aesthetic art

From the history of the world we find that Hitler and Mussolini realized the importance of cinema as a powerful ideological weapon and used it to further their own political interests. Russia used it for its propaganda. Progressive film makers like Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga-vertov, Jean-Luc Godard, Fernando Solanas, Rocha Marker, Humberto Solas, Miklos Jancso, Charlie Chaplin, and Ritwik Ghatak have used cinema as a powerful means to constructive purposes and for challenging the hegemonic ideology of their time (Kamzi, 1999, pp. 16-17). If the fundamental character of the cinema is to bring out realities, it at first appears free from any subjective judgments. But cinema is a medium acting within people's perceptions--a part of their physical, psychological, cultural, and political context. This dual purpose (reality vs. interpretive scope) shows that cinema is a subject of socio-political negotiation; it has a dialectical nature (p. 18).

B. Indian cinema

Cinema production, distribution, and consumption, both through film and digital technologies, now constitute a global, rather than national, system. While yesterday's discussion of film often centered on Hollywood and Europe, today the largest producer of film is India and the fastest-growing cinematic audience is Asian and South Asian (Velayutham, 2008, p. 1).

"Media use has been a factor in displacement of not only existing media by a new medium but also of leisure time activities" (Rao, 2001, p. 104). In India the governmental Films Division was set up in 1948 in Bombay for the production and distribution of documentary films and news reels as a medium of education and information (Kumar, 2001, p. 130). When the cinema arrived in British India, it took root in three major metropolitan cities: Bombay (renamed Mumbai), Calcutta (renamed Kolkata), and Madras (renamed Chennai) (Velayutham, 2008, p. 1). Today, the well known largest Indian film industries are also found in Mumbai, Chennai, Calcutta, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Of these it is important to note that three are from South India-Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. The cinema, largely produced in these centers, dominates the mass culture in India and has a remarkable popularity with South Asians living outside India (Pendakur, 2003, p. 1). For millions of Indians whatever they do, almost everything comes from cinema. Cinema has provided for the majority of India's citizens an entertainment with mixed culture and creation. In all, Indian cinema has played a major role in providing and influencing the notion of "Indianness" and cultivating a cultural hegemony.

In India cinema as an art and industry has spearheaded development and social change from below. India has changed significantly in all its spheres in the past decades and that has to do with its national ideologies. In India the cinema becomes a powerful tool to defend, to store up, to control, and to perpetuate its culture and national ideologies from foreign cultures at different times in its history (Rajadhyaksha, 2002, p. 10). As a cultural reference Indian cinema reflects the social diversity of the country and the density of everyday life; it connects expatriates to what happens back home and makes an emotional link among Indians and the variety of languages and cultures present in the subcontinent. The cinema deals with the problems to be addressed and the social issues that are of national concern, cultural goals to be proud of, and ideological possibilities to be defended and explored (Sardar, 1998, p. 22). The questions of film policy, financial assistance of government and its subsidies, state censorship board, taxation, and licensing regulations as well as the locally and the nationally instituted awards and film festivals become crucial in determining the wider role of the cinema in Indian society (Chakravarthy, 1996, p. 56).

C. Cinema in Tamil Nadu

Tamil cinema, centered in Chennai, is considered a regional cinema and often under-represented and overlooked. Although Mumbai-based Bollywood is usually considered the Indian Hollywood and the capital of the film industry, it is the Chennai-based Kollywood film industry that has the greatest impact on the masses. "It has become increasingly pervasive in almost all aspects of Tamil society and perhaps the most prominently in political life" (Hardgrave, 2008, p. 60).

Cinema has become part and parcel of the life of Tamils. It has taken a central place in the life and culture of the Tamil society. In fact, it did not vanish with the arrival of the TV; rather the small screen lives at the mercy of cinema, and it still remains a poor substitute for the cinema. The number of film goers in India is highest in Tamil Nadu. It is part of hospitality to treat guests by taking them to a film, and not doing so could even amount to breaking social etiquette. There are instances of family disputes and quarrels arising from this film-going culture. It is not a surprise therefore that people in the cities and towns hardly have a clear idea on information like the population in the city or the number of temples or schools and hospitals but exhibit fairly accurate statistics on the number of theaters and the film titles along with details of the number of shows, timings, etc. In fact, people in Tamil Nadu identify addresses and places using cinema theaters as their reference point (Chettiyar, 2001, pp. 7-8).

2. Origins of Tamil Cinema

A. Language

Tamil cinema emerges from Tamil language and culture, incorporating both cultural and entertainment strands. Tamil culture belongs to the Dravidian language family (Tamil, Malayalam, Kanada, and Telugu) which is spoken by 100 million people in the world (Alexander, 2006, p. 38). Tamil culture may be distinguished from the Tamil civilization, though both express the development of human history. The former speaks of the inner growth, personal life and humanity known in Tamil as 'panpaadu,' ('panbu' meaning value/attribute/quality), and the latter deals with the external growth, public life, and organization, known in Tamil as 'naagarigam,' ('nagar' meaning civic or city).

The term 'panpaadu' refers to the sum total of the values and their system of priority and their individual and collective expression as guiding and conditioning both private and public life and is closely associated with preparing the land for cultivation. It is worthwhile noting that the ancient Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar (4th or 5th century AD, also spelled Thiruva uvar, author of the Tirukkural "Sacred Couplets") uses this same word panpaadu to teach society to live a cultured and civilized life (Thatchanamurthy, 1999, pp. 3-4).

Tamil Nadu or Thamizhagam, the homeland of the Tamil people, is one of the southern states of India, located in the extreme south of the subcontinent. The state has an area of 50,215 square miles (130,057 square kilometres) and is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Bay of Bengal to the east and by the states of Kerala to the west, Karnataka (formerly Mysore) to the northwest, and Andhra Pradesh to the north. The capital is Chennai (formerly known as Madras).

Tamil Nadu is endowed with rich cultural heritage, especially the Tamil language and literature, temple architecture, art, and sculpture, and the three great Tamil kingdoms of the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandiyas and later the Pallavas in the northern part of the Tamil country. These kings devoted their time and resources to nurture, sustain, and transmit Tamil cultural heritage in spite of the continuous battles they had waged among themselves (Arimpoor, 1982, p. 10).

"The Tamil language has a long and unbroken literary tradition of some 2,000 years" (Venkatachalapathy, 2005, p. 537). It belongs to the southern group of Dravidian languages and is spoken mainly in the southern part of India, in Tamil Nadu. The number of native Tamil speakers exceeds 26 million as the language is also spoken in other parts of the world. In the island nation of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) alone there are two million native Tamil speakers. In Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam there are one million people who speak the language. Besides there are also Tamil speaking people in some of the Indian Ocean islands. The oldest literary tradition of the Dravidian people is found in Tamil Nadu. The oldest existing manuscripts and monuments of Tamil literature date apparently from not later than the 2nd and 3rd century of the Christian era (Andronov, 1965, p. 9).

Colloquial Tamil or the dialect used in day-to-day conversation among the people is quite different from the classical or literary form, and it exists almost exclusively as an oral tradition as it defies the grammar of the written language. Oral communication has been completely monopolised by the colloquial language which is very much used in the cinema (Andronov, 1965, p. 9). "Tamil language is traditionally understood as consisting of three streams, namely Iyal which means literature, Isai which means music, and Natakam which means drama" (Chidambaranar, 1997, p. 3). The triple division of the Tamil language known as Muthamizh (literally triple Tamil) has been an integral part of classical Tamil literature right from the second century and it plays an important role in the context of modern cultural performances of the people (Subramanian, 2007, p. 25).

The Tamil language was very well known for its devotional nature that was prevalent during the time of the Bhakti (spiritual devotion) culture or movement (Zvelebil, 1975, pp. 5-6). But it was tabooed by Brahmanic Hinduism and Vedic Brahmanism. Militant Hinduism was very hostile to Tamil literature and this enmity may have been responsible for the disappearance of many great works of Tamil literature (Andronov, 1965, pp. 5-6). A passion for the Tamil language and culture led to protests against Brahmin identity. More than a protest against Brahmin domination, it was an expression of a deep passion and attachment; this passion for the Tamil language implied and induced a passion for social reform, identity formation, and political empowerment, which continues in the media for example. Based on the popular belief that Tamil language is in fact the mother of all the Tamils, people exalted Tamil language as divine and sought to re-divinize or Dravidianize the culture (Subramanian, 2000, pp. 114-116).

B. Drama

Within this larger phenomenon, cinema takes part of its form from the theater. Though the Tamil language with the aforementioned triple linguistic character of Iyal (prose), Isai (music), and Natakam (drama or theater) flourished in ancient times, it had its setbacks in the past two millennia. When Buddhism and Jainism flourished in the country, music and drama were considered worldly pleasures to be refrained from. However, to please the common folk during festival seasons, a rustic form of art known as Koothu was performed, and the people who took it as a profession later assumed a caste identity known as Koothar (Chidambaranar, 1997, p. 3).

The tradition of Koothu is still prevalent in Tamil Nadu during village festivals. In the course of time, the theater, meant to spread morality among the people, started deteriorating with obscene dialogues and vulgar punning on words in order attract audience attention and cheap popularity; this attracted severe religious strictures and sanctions. This reformation is comparable to the Puritan reformation in Europe that advocated strict religious principles and austere life to fight against the cult of pleasure (Chidambaranar, 1997, p. 4).

Theater in its present form is, however, a recent development. In the year 1877 a troupe by the name of Thanjai Mananmohana Nataka Saba was started by T. R. Govindasamy Rao along with some Brahmins, a few Marathis who knew Tamil, and a few Pillais. At that time they had no songs but made use of some musical instruments to go along with acting. Later on this troupe split and formed another group called Kannu Pillai Troupe. This troupe for the first time combined music with acting on stage. Seeing all these developments in society, a renowned artist by the name of Kumbakonam Mahapandithar Brahmasree Natesa Deekshidar started a company called Kumbakonam sith Vilasa Sabai. In this company he added the Buffoon or the clown character and men acted as women for the first time. People used to come by bullock carts from far and near to witness the performance (Bhagavathar, 1997b, p. 1).

This led to a golden time and a reformation in Tamil drama. Kumbakonam sith Vilasa Sabai was split, and a certain Narayanasami started a new company wherein Ramayanam was enacted with songs, dialogues, costumes, and sets for the first time, which was quite different from the other companies. These drama companies, apart from performing in Tamil Nadu, especially in the southern districts around Tirunelveli, traveled throughout South India including the regions surrounding Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, Hyderabad in Andhra, and Mysore in Karnataka. Later on there was a rise and fall of a plethora of drama troupes in Tamil Nadu, and today there still exist some drama groups that are spoken about highly (Bhagavathar, 1997a, pp. 1-2).

C. Music in Tamil drama

Tamil cinema could attain its progress only from the field of drama wherein there was little harmony between the action and drama, and songs were given more importance than story. People used to go to Tamil dramas more to hear than to see. The instrumentalists, especially the one at the harmonium, were more important than the hero, and the songs took the main place and drove the audience into a frenzy. The heroes and heroines were themselves more known and celebrated for their voice and musical talent than acting, and musical talent was considered an integral and indispensable component of acting. Obviously when cinema emerged it was music again that took the central place, playing the unique role of attracting the crowds, and many films have been produced and have attained wide popularity for the sake of music, and the trend persists till today (Vamanan, 2004, p. 5). That in one's past lies one's future is true in the case of Tamil cinema music.

This historical background of the Tamil cinema music needs to be noted as a significant factor that would throw light on the understanding and interpreting the impact of cinema, its music in particular, on the Tamil society especially the youth and children (Vamanan, 2004, p. 10). The Tamils usually hear the songs of a particular cinema and then go to the theaters to see the still pictures. In fact the Tamil usage Thirai padam for cinema--literally a still picture on screen-differs from the Western idea of "movies," which indicates movement or action. It is something taken for granted in the Tamil or, for that matter, in any Indian cinema that the director conveys the story, plot, message, and sentiments through visuals along with music and songs (Narayanasamy, 1997a, p. 9). In order to improve and flourish, Tamil cinema took the direction of music rather than acting or the technical aspects of film making. This could be the reason why the best actors could not shine in cinema when they were not able to sing (Jayaramiyer, 1997, p. 6). It is recorded that the producers looked for heroes and actresses who were popular singers as drama artists without bothering about their ability to act and represent characters on screen (Narayanasamy, 1997b, p.10).

D. Loud voice culture in Tamil cinema

The stage actors brought the "loud voice culture" into the Tamil cinema by shouting and yelling as they would do it in theater. People came to the cinema to see beautiful women with jewels, men with impressive voices, and picturesque scenery, love songs and sentiments, and a comedian who could evoke laughter. These may be cited as some of the reasons for some aesthetic failure of Tamil cinema even today (Iyer, 1997, pp. 11-12). Nevertheless this initial aesthetic language suited the pre-independence period, bringing along with it the drama, stories, plot; therefore, it is called Tamil cinema of the loud voice culture.

3. History of Tamil cinema

A. Extent of Tamil cinema

In the State of Tamil Nadu in India, cinema is everywhere and it is everything. Going through the main streets of the bigger cities one can not but see the gigantic glittering billboards that advertize the latest films as well as the small posters that are pasted on the walls, with the fan club's name. The digital banner culture of today has made it very easy to print the photos of the youth leaders who sponsor the clubs to identify themselves with their film stars (Dickey, 1993, p. 3).

Transportation companies, both public and private, compete with each other to attract passengers with the latest digital audio-visual system which gives the passengers a thrill of theater experience while traveling. It is a very common sight to see the posters of the famous film stars on the backs of autos and cycle rickshaws, with their famous slogans taken from the cinema. Tea shops, restaurants, shopping complexes, temples, bus stands, and railway stations will assist and entertain the public with cinema audio-visual programs (Dickey, 1993, p. 3). Hence it goes without saying that cinema is one of the most preferred means of entertainment in Tamil Nadu.

During festivals, both the public and the private television channels telecast programs by the cinema stars. Even government functions can not have a celebrative mood without cinema stars (Editors, 2004, pp. i-iii). In family gatherings like weddings, cinema songs blare from horn speakers and from cassette players. People, irrespective of age, follow the life style in dress, hair dressing fashions, and mannerisms promoted by popular films and film stars. This is very common in the lives of the youth and women. The release of a new film of their favorite film star is a feast for the fans. They celebrate it with maximum joy and commitment which naturally involves lots of money. Going to the cinema is not always an easy thing. One has to be prepared for several risks like losing one's purse, picking quarrels, being pulled and pushed in the queue, and even being beaten by the police, before one can buy a ticket and get into the theater. With all these risks the number of cinema goers is still on the rise (Chettiyar, 2001, p. 9). All these challenges show that the cinema still has an important place and remains a popular medium in Tamil Nadu.

In the history of cinema there is a distinctive place for the Tamil cinema with regard to its political and social nature, which covers the entire lives of the people (Govindan, 2001, p. iv). The Tamil cinema as an art form gives importance to the social life that explains the various aspects of daily life (p. vii). But it is unfortunate to note that this art form which is the biggest invention in the field of communication of the 20th century with its direct impact on the society and its democracy is still not understood by many people. In fact the study of Tamil cinema opens the window to the understanding of Tamil psychology, Tamil culture, and its consequences (Chokkalingam, 2000, p. 1). Cinema serves a valuable role since by their cultural tradition the people of Tamil Nadu tend to learn more by audible knowledge (p. 2). Children are no exception from this cinema culture. They play cards with the image of the movie star printed on them. They learn to dance, fight, and speak dialogue like the film stars and entertain themselves and others with the songs and dances from their favorite cinema. Babies are named after the famous film titles or with their famous star's name (Subarav, 1992, p. 12).

An example illustrates the popularity and power of Tamil cinema and its impact on audiences. Since 1967 five chief ministers, all democratically elected, have governed Tamil Nadu and all of them are associated in one way or another with the film industry (Baskaran, 1996, p. i). These socio-cultural and political factors associated with Tamil cinema mirror the different strands of society and help us to understand its multi-role as propagator, entertainer, educator, and guardian of ideas, mores, traditions, and culture. Through Tamil cinema one can trace the diverse schools of thought which obviously are rooted in politics and religion (pp. ii-iii). Tamil popular cinema is politically and ideologically loaded. It not only reflects social reality but also constructs it. It is fused into the polity and sensibility of citizens (Kazmi, 1999, p. 16).

B. A brief history of Tamil cinema

Tamil cinema is a powerful medium of cultural expression and it functions as a social, cultural, political, and economic institution (Pendakur, 2003, p. 12). It has a tremendous impact on the lives of people by shaking and shaping the foundations of the society. Through cinema one can enter and study the cultural traits of the society: for example the caste system, its origin, its structure, and its function and influence can be understood just going through the Tamil cinema (Gokulsing & Dissanayake, 1998, p. 8). Acritical study of the Tamil cinema industry will support the connection and its impact on socio-cultural, religious, and political values (Sivathamby, 1983, p. 19). Dickey has rightly observed that the Tamil cinema has much to do with the life of the Tamil people in all its aspects (Dickey, 1993, p. 14).

The Tamil cinema industry had its arrival as celluloid technology in the year 1897 when M. Edwards held a cinematograph show in Victoria Public Hall near Central Station in Chennai. This was the first ever show in South India. It is important to note that this was just a year after the Lumiere brothers had demonstrated their inventions in Paris. There was, however, little indication that this would evolve as a big, popular entertainment industry and become a commercial possibility in society (Baskaran, 2002, p. 3).

During the silent film era (1916-1932) most of the films were based on the well known stories from the Puranas and almost every actor came from the stage dramas. But women did not want to appear in front of the camera for fear of their health, so women from America and Europe came to act in Tamil films. In order to keep the audience busy and entertained during the silent movie, women of ill repute, mostly from the lower castes in society, stunt masters, and magicians kept the crowd entertained (Narayanan, 1981, pp. 29-30). There were social, political, cultural, and moral problems which drew the attention of the British government and the high caste people. In 1915 the electrical inspector for the public works department of Madras Presidency, E.J.B. Greenwood, made the comment that cinema could be both physically and morally harmful to the public (Vasudevan, 2000, p. 47; see also Liang, 2005, p. 369). The British came down heavily on the new technology with lot of restrictions. In 19271928 the Indian Cinematograph Committee described the Tamil cinema as an entertainment of the masses. The government gave more attention to censorship and not to trade and, in fact, the trade aspect was neglected (Baskaran, 2002, p. 4).

In 1913 a cinema theater known as Gaiety was built by an Indian in Chennai. R. Nataraja Muthaliar was the forerunner of this industry. He produced the first studio-made film, Keesakavatham, in 1916 (Narayanan, 1981, p. 12). There were more than 100 films produced during this silent film era, and they were touring even in the small towns. After the arrival of sound, R. Nataraj Muthaliar gained autonomy in the market and his own General Pictures Corporation in 1934 produced films in four major South Indian languages namely Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kanada as well as in Hindi. In fact, at this time not even the Hindi films had made much progress in this field.

The high caste leaders saw the cinema as a cultural threat which could destroy society. The upper caste reaction to the regular shows was one of elitist apathy and anger. They despised the cinema and concluded that it is not even worthy of any serious attention. Mahatma Gandhi's statement in 1939 included "cinema among evils like gambling and racing." This same hostile approach towards cinema can be seen in the remarks of Nehru that "the cinema industry was not a priority of a new nation"(Prasad, 1998, p. 33). In the year 1935 when the film Nandanar came out as a hit, the writer and journalist Kalghi Krishnamurthy wrote in his journal that the trees, buffalos, and goats acted well (Narayanan, 1981, p. 76). The situation worsened when color entered the cinema and the songs and lyrics shifted the industry to outward values rather than the inner values that were found in other traditional media (Bakshi, 1998, p. 117). This showed the attitude of the educated of that time towards the cinema. It is interesting to note that in independent India for many years film songs were a taboo on the All India Radio, which is the state broadcasting station (Baskaran, 2002, pp. 4-5).

Because of these often negative reactions, the Indian Cinematograph Act of 1918 empowered the authorities to examine and to grant or deny certification for films as suitable for public exhibition. Eventually the police also were authorized to examine films, but they only enjoyed the film and did not much bother about the examination. They attended to their duties with various vested interests rather than doing their duty and thus corruption entered the cinema industry (Vasudevan, 2000, pp. 52-54). For the Indian government, controlling the cinema was a problem since 1915 (p. 57). Thus the coming of cinema in India and Tamil Nadu saw a period of consolidation of the censorship machinery to regulate the new technological medium and the potentially dangerous space that it enabled. The cinema space was highly regulated and, considered as a highly suspicious environment, constantly under the threat of law and order (Liang, 2005, p. 369).

The producers borrowed capital from the rich people and as there was no security for money return, they sacrificed the value-based films and produced low budget films for quick money (Baskaran, 2002, p. 5). Illegal funds and underground criminals entered the industry in a big way to invest and to settle the disputes among the producers and artists (Pendakur, 2003, p. 30). The relationship between the money lenders and the producers is not a simple thing that existed once but a continuous story which led eventually to explain the nexus between the economic, ideological, and political forces that shape the conditions of the social, cultural, and political elements of production in the cinema world (Prasad, 1998, p. 30). This cinema industry was an occasion for the entry of black money, black marketers, and smugglers to invest their unaccounted money which would be tax free. This practice was even regarded as a patriotic act during British rule (p. 39).

Mostly the money lenders and the distributors controlled the industry, which was taken over later by famous stars. Most of the time the film's success depended on its star value. In the course of time, the stars rose to the top, and all the other artists and film makers found it difficult to survive in the industry. The sound engineers, cinematographers, editors, laboratory technicians, and junior artists were poorly paid. The unskilled artists and workers in the industry, most of them poor low caste artisans, earned even less. It is worth to take note of M. B. Srinivasan who writes that the cinema industry is ruled like a zamindari--a feudal land-holding system (Baskaran, 2002, p. 5). Today much of the rise in the production of popular cinema can be attributed to outdoor shooting, which implies a lot of money and time (sometime they say it is easier and more economical to shoot in foreign countries because of corruption from the local authorities and disturbances from the stars' fans), particularly for the song and dance sequences, whose costs often are rather high (Pendakur, 2003, p. 30).

C. Technology and industry

Cinema's realism had the power to move the sentiments of the audience right from the beginning. For example, early audiences viewing on screen a train coming into the platform ran away from the theaters; seeing rain in a scene made them look for their umbrellas; seeing images of snakes, medical operations, shootings, or exaggerated violence tended to have similar effects on the audience. Other pseudo-realistic scenes still affect audiences. For instance, the scene of the contemporary Tamil actor Kamalahasan shaking hands with Shubash Chandra Bose in the Tamil film Indian is a typical example of the Tamil cinema in making the unreal appear real (Sivakumar, 2003, pp. 39-40). The heroes in the Tamil cinema are portrayed as supermen able to do many things at a time--things they are otherwise incapable of, like talking in many languages, singing, dancing, fighting, handling weapons, etc.

The common people sees these things as real whereas the educated elite take these as a part of cinematographic language. The sense of reality dominates our psyche because visual truth overcomes us. In fact when we see films continuously in a theater we are taken to another world altogether. Only when we come out of it do we realize this. This is how these experiences become a part and parcel of our life. The individual's ability to apprehend, capture, generate, transmit, duplicate, replicate, manipulate, store, and retrieve audio-visual contents on the desktop has reached the point where film technology results in the rebirth of a home-based or "cottage industry" throughout the world (Youngblood, 1970, pp. 130-131).

The cinema industry has achieved far more success than the other arts in a very short span. The production of cinema is basically an industrial process, which means it calls for a huge investment of money and personnel, a well built framework, and an industrialized infrastructure in the society. It could be financed by the government or by private companies. India possesses a highly developed and sophisticated film industry which is the second largest commercial film production industry in the world (Hopkinson, 1971, p. 12). It is noteworthy to mention that Tamil cinema has its unique place in the nationwide film industry. The southern film industry ("Kollywood") is the largest in terms of number of studios, capital investments, gross income and number of people engaged in production (Dickey, 1993, p. 3).

The cinema's popularity is very much dependent on the camera which imitated that representation, which served as the artist's tool for many centuries (Briggs & Burke, 2002, p. 164). Cinema is undoubtedly the largest media industry in the world. Sound and color radically transformed not only cinematography but also society as the stories already present in society in the form of novels and literature are translated into the new technology and thus reproduce the systems of reality and morality already present in the older systems of story telling in society (Denzin, 1995, p. 22).

By 1980 (the golden jubilee year of talking pictures) in the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamilnadu, there were 98 studios, with most of them in Chennai. There were about 2,742 production units and 5,885 cinema houses of both permanent and touring category (the all India figure was 10,813) and about 3,980 films were made (Baskaran, 2002, p. 2). Today, in Tamil Nadu as many as 1,771 cinema theaters function under the following categories: (i) 1,351 permanent cinema theaters; (ii) 120 semi-permanent cinema theaters; (iii) 291 touring cinema theaters; and (iv) nine open air cinema theaters (Anbalagan, 2007, p. 20).

Tamil cinema is more than the actors and the actresses. There are other persons of whom the director comes first as the one responsible for the film and the producer who finances the cinema and has the final say in the industry. In addition to technicians the persons included are the writer, music director, lyrics writer, choreographer, dance director, fight scene master, special effects director, dubbing artists, group dance team, stunt crew, playback singers, comedians, side actors and actresses. All of them represent the film industry (Dickey, 1993, p. 120). The unique and magical qualities of the Tamil cinema can be understood only in the background of its industrial network and its cultural ideologies. These are two sides of the same coin. They support each other. In order to understand their relationship one should examine the salient features of the Tamil cinema industry and combine them with the cultural analysis of popular cinema (Pasumaikumar, 2003, p. 50).

D. Kollywood:

Center of the Tamil cinema industry

In the Tamil Nadu cinema, business was and is strongly influenced by market considerations as found in its production and distribution. Chennai-Kodambakkam or Kollywood--still continues to be the center of the cinema industry in South India, exploiting the reputation and image of past rulers to assert both supremacy and take on a stance of compassionate concern for the people (Ramasamy, 1994, p. 313).

As noted, Kollywood has its roots in Tamil drama. The well-known stage artist and script writer Shankaradas Swamigal, born in the year 1867, was the first one to regularize the stage drama in Tamil Nadu. All his dramas are based on the well known stories from the puranas. In his time men were substituted for women on stage as per the culture of the day (Narayanan, 1981, p. vii). But today this humble beginning has grown into a mega-million rupee industry, employing hundreds of thousands of workers. It is true that as an entertainment industry it had to struggle to strike its roots in the beginning, but immediately after independence and as electricity entered the villages the cinema also entered in the minds and culture of society with its glamour (p. vii). Surprisingly, only in 2001 did the government declare film making an industry; at that time the industry started receiving considerable attention from researchers (Baskaran, 2002, p. 1).

In earlier times the story and the director were considered to be the most important in cinema production. Today, however, the onset of new technology has led to new advances in cinema such as animation, special sound effects, and quality of production with the arrival of computer technology. Today it is more challenging to produce a good film in a world of excellence, competence, and competition. Today, Chennai uses the best available cinema technology (Mohan, 2005, p. 1).

4. Film distribution

With the issuing of the censor certificate the film is ready for distribution. In Tamil Nadu most of the time the major studios are owned by the same associates of producers, and they become responsible for the release of the film. There are of course films not permitted by the censor board to be released. When the film is certified, the distributor looks for the best theater, the most auspicious time, and the cooperation of the fans for the release of the film. Releasing a movie involves advertising through newspapers, wall posters, and bill boards. In addition the press must be called for an exclusive preview at which the director and the producer will pay attention to the reviewers in both English and in the vernacular dailies and periodicals. The reviewers have a say in the success of the cinema with regard to the commercial part of it. As mentioned earlier, in India there are almost 11,000 cinema theaters, of which about 2,000 are found in Tamil Nadu (Chokkalingam, 2000, p. 1). The price of the cinema tickets is fixed by the government according to the city type and the class of the theaters. This is how the cinema that is produced becomes a commercial product in the hands of the common man who ultimately decides the success of this cinema industry (Dickey, 1993, pp. 121-122).

Film distribution in the silent era was not a developed one. It was with the arrival of the sound and regional talkies that this sector became an independent one with great scope for the future. Distribution and exhibition are the two sectors of the entire distribution process widely known as the most profitable part of film business. Normally the financiers take up the business of distributing the films for the sake of regaining their investment, as is the practice with Hollywood companies. In this way they gain a lot of profit without losing the capital in the industry. The financier and distributors manipulate the industry because the business side has turned to be the producer and distributor (Prasad, 1998, pp. 40-41).

Film production and distribution is almost an underground business in India and Tamil Nadu. Even before the release of every film, the music and the sound track is sold and methodically distributed; it is said that by selling the songs alone the money for the investment is often recouped. In 1997 A. R. Rahman's music was reportedly sold for 20 million rupees in each of the four territories of distribution in India (or about $1.7 million). Pre-sale of pictures to raise production funds is also done by selling ancillary rights, particularly the sound track of the film apart from the sale of audio and video cassettes, CDs, DVDs, sale of rights to Star television and satellite television and cable television, still photos on T-Shirts, on saris and other cosmetic ornaments, on wrist-watches, and on notebook covers add up considerable revenue (Pendakur, 2003, p. 35).

It is proper to note here that the Indian television as a whole becomes a tool for both central and state governments. As part of the welfare package promised at the election campaign the Tamil Nadu state government has distributed a color television set to each family below the poverty line. Television at home has a tremendous growth potential in society today. Doordarshan, the state-owned national network, along with numerous private satellite television networks in different languages from different political parties telecast movies and other politically motivated programs for home consumption to millions of viewers across the state. In Tamil Nadu major political parties have their own television networks to propagate their ideologies. These offer tremendous opportunities for the film industry to reconnect to a cross-section of its lost audience in the theaters (Pendakur, 2003, p. 46).

In addition, fan clubs provide relatively cheap distribution venues for productions that create a new network of wholesale and retail dealers that reach out to every nook and corner of the country. The products also reflect the religious sentiments of the masses, and songs are being recomposed or remixed with the original tunes but adapted to the religious and social occasions. Hinduism with its diverse traditions and customs has the broadest scope to make use of distribution dealers. Christians and Muslims have a limited use as sales are mostly restricted to their shrines. Generally it is the political parties and the fan clubs that are involved in the distribution, which they do with much dedication and meticulous organization. Cassette companies buy the copyright of the songs while the television companies buy the copyright of the dance sequence and sometime of the film itself. Failures at the box office is compensated by this, and no one who invests money in this cinema industry has gone bankrupt. That is the reason why even the tax from this industry is a steady income for the government (Pendakur, 2003, pp. 35-40).

In addition to local distribution, Tamil films appear around the world. The global marketing strategy may be explained with an example. Ashoke Amirtraj, who is a partner in Amirtraj-Solomon Communications with Michael Solomon, President of Warner Brothers, produced a Tamil film called Jeans (1996) with an eye towards the growing international markets. It is a multi-million rupee production with extensive location work outside the country and its budget reportedly exceeded that of any film in Tamil so far. Amirtraj declares that his company's strategy was to go after the world market in terms of casting, high standards in production, and directing. It is important to note that the film industry employs and exploits the world famous Miss World celebrities in order to attract global business along with local market. This example cites the growing global market for the South Asian cinema and also indicates the globally spread diaspora of South Asian emigrants especially the youth among them and their natural desire to feel closer to home via the Indian or Tamil movies (Pendakur, 2003, p. 43).

The cinema industry offers job opportunities to many people. Cinema entertains so many people and keeps them engaged positively but for which they would in all probability get involved in anti-social activities. Cinema is an industry where many talented people are employed and it is a dream world for so many young artists. The cinema industry is a wonderful means to seek a job opportunity because the film industry diversifies its operations into television, information technology, and computer technology, which includes the related digital knowledge in the mass media as the film industry can no longer be viewed as an isolated entertainment. It would not be an exaggeration therefore to claim that the Tamil cinema industry is a precious gift for talented youth in society. It is up to the youth and society to use it for constructive purposes aimed at individual and collective good and not for destructive purposes. It is the responsibility of both the industry and the society to make use of this medium for the betterment of the society (Chettiyar, 2001, p. 9).

The producers today have come to compromise with the foreign film entries for they themselves are aware of their inability to stop it as the flow of the latest media technology in the video shops and Internet downloading has made access to all types of cinema a glaring reality. To the contrary the producers try to imitate some of the characters in their films. Even regional languages now apply cross linguistic puns to entertain the audience. By doing this the regional cinema extends its marketing nationally and globally (Gopalan, 2003, p. 5).

5. Cinema Production as Cultural Commodity in Tamil Nadu

In developing countries like India, cinema forms a part of the social, economic, and political context; it holds a strategic importance as a cultural phenomenon, which obviously takes into account the rapid development in production and consumption of cultural products (Thomas, 2001, p. 78). In India as a whole the culture and entertainment play a major role and it is ever on the rise. When we speak of cultural products and entertainment, we see different patterns of growth in production. For example the production of cinema and the consumption of its products are always on the increase. People in India generally do not have the means to buy the latest entertainment products of television, radio, satellite and cable connections, computers, tape recorders, etc. But the majority go to the cinema, which is relatively cheaper and easy to access. In a country like India where illiteracy is high, cinema becomes a cultural commodity in the field of production and consumption which of late has come to be known as "commoditization of culture."

Cultural needs are not satisfied fully and hence producers link people to the modern entertainment technologies so as to block people's genuine needs and manipulate the same for their own ends. For example, the producers continually create new needs in the form of music tracks, dances, lyrics, and violence and sex in order to extend continually their own interest of making money and realizing their capitalist ambitions. In Tamil Nadu the process of cultural production and the formation of cultural need work within a framework of economic, political, religious, ideological, and caste-class relations. This process of cultural production and creating cultural needs has a specific purpose, namely increasing profit. The cultural products of Tamil cinema do not respond to all the demands of people; instead they create new products to create new and targeted social needs. In other words, the industry selects certain social groups in society based on caste, class, gender, religion, language, and fan groups and prepares them to respond to the producers' offer. The fact is that these strategies in the process of formation of cultural needs are confined within the framework of economic, political, and ideological class relations and have a specific aspect of valorization of capital (Miege & Garnham, 1979, pp. 299-300).

The film industry takes extraordinary care in order to avoid failures in the production of cultural commodities. They need to maintain a collaborative relationship with the artists by creating young artists' new creations and carefully promoting their success in the industry. Meanwhile the industry takes into consideration the non professional labour and artists by occasional payments while both of them wait in hope for public recognition.

Tamil cinema produces cultural commodities according to specific conditions and modes of production. Like other commercial commodities the cultural commodity too has its expansion of exchange values. It implies not only the expansion of values but also that of capital. Today the Tamil Nadu government organizes and promotes cultural shows, commercial sites, world trade shows, and shopping malls as sales environments. Thus in Tamil Nadu one witnesses a capitalist society where on the one hand the promotion of culture is taking place by commercial parks (Indian Institute of Technology Madras-Taramani), and on the other hand the promotion of commerce by culture as for example through the MGR Film City, a recently built state-sponsored complex featuring the sets and studios of Tamil Nadu film industry.

6. Consumption

Cinema going in Tamil Nadu depicts people from all walks of life and their problems concerning need and hunger. Need is that which can be met by a specific and unchanging object. As for example hunger may be satisfied by food only. Cinema too meets specific needs of the society. The producers and their productions are justified by the demand of social needs. While the other sectors of society like the economy and politics have often failed to meet the basic material needs of the masses, the cinema industry has succeeded in effectively meeting the demands that are placed on it. These basic needs of the masses are very important. People are hungry and the commercial cinema is the best food for them (Prasad, 1998, p. 108). Hunger is evoked by the failure of the cultural structures ("mother," "home," "man," family, economy) that presumably fulfill--or entirely circumvent--women's needs (Hastie, 2007, p. 299; Youngblood,1970, p. 112). Many people especially those who are deprived, exploited, and poor in society seek to find solutions for many of their needs that spring from their uncomfortable situation in society, and cinema is an easily accessible source to which they turn for relief if not solutions.

From the perspective of cinema, the need or hunger is at the heart of all basic human problems. The result of cinema or the problems of cinema watching can be explained from what one has seen or "eaten" from the cinema. As food contains many ingredients, the cinema too is a cooked form of food with lot of spices in it. In fact, cinema is food for the people for their emotional, psychological, religious, and political hunger. Film replaces reality by a symbolic system of meaning. Popular film cooks by narrating a story, but the problem occurs when it is "overcooked," it loses its nutritional elements, loses its meaning, hence it becomes incapable of fulfilling people's needs (Valicha, 1988, pp. 37-38).

Reel food is also known as Masala Padam in Tamil Nadu. Masala (a composite of a variety of spices used in cooking delicious food) is an appropriate metaphor to analyze India's and particularly Tamil Nadu's cinema. It is precisely because it draws attention to the variety of ingredients that make up the story of the popular cinema. Just as the Tamil cooking includes lots of Masalas or hot spices, the popular Tamil cinema also takes on a lot of hot spices like love, affection, sex, pleasure, violence, passion, music, song, dance, etc., and that is how the cinema substitutes for a variety of social needs and ideals. Tamil cinema is created as an industrial product that aims to please the large masses and their changing tastes (Pendakur, 2003, p. 12). This cinema product is available at cheap rates or even for free 24 hours a day in Tamil Nadu (p. 95). As mentioned earlier, the food or the "masala" should not be overcooked and everything should be in place just in the right proportions for which the cultural intervention is needed.

A. Socio-demographic factors in consumption

Popular Tamil cinema consumption can be measured as the average cinema attendance per inhabitant per year. Drawing on their own practical experience and their sense of business success, exhibitors brought cinema and audiences together the best they could (Hughes, 2006, p. 61).

Other socio-demographic factors like gender, age, material status, family compositions, and region of residence may exert some influence on cinema consumption (Pendakur, 2003, p. 112). These socio-demographic factors are also intended to serve as primary controls on media consumption in Tamil Nadu (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005, p. 197). The rising income, especially of the youth, leading to greater demand for cinema in both quantity and quality, proves quite relevant to the consideration of the cinema. A materialist lifestyle diminished people's ability to enjoy the pleasures of taste, smell, and sound, and of activities such as walking and reading. The problem was not consumption as such. It was that and more, the forms of consumption were crowding out smaller, but more intensely pleasurable forms of consumption (Trentmann, 2007, p. 153).

In Tamil Nadu, there is a relationship between poverty and increased consumption of cinema products (Chettiyar, 2001, p. 13). Furthermore, the competition in the movie industry, the quality of cinema product supplied and viewed with the superior audio-visual technology, the role characteristic of the famous super stars offering a variety of possible behaviors or decisions in a given situation, and the number of theaters per square kilometer (known as the situational factor) are the important determinants of consumption of cinema in Tamil Nadu (Shen & Dickson, 2001, pp. 76-77).

B. Visual culture as mass consumption

Tamil cinema is consumed as mass culture. This mass culture indicates the notion of cultural need which implies group divisions based on needs. The strength or relevance of Tamil cinema lies in its ability to feed and heal the wounds of cultural discrimination. The consumers are thus satisfied as they are enabled to appreciate and preserve their traditions. It is by giving the mass what they want that the producers are so sure of getting what they want (Prasad, 1998, pp. 105-107).

These needs, being so basic and residual, never die and so are not fully satisfied, implying thereby a process of never-ending or continuous desire. The cinema uses categories such as language, blood, soil, race and kinship, purity, and bhakti because they are the most tenacious categories; they form a residual narrative of community, which refuses to die even as it is in the process of being fractured by very contradictory processes of citizenship (Pinney, 2001, p. 29).

People in Tamil Nadu are addicted to almost every cinema product or cinema star's activity independently of any biological or sociological discrimination. While examining the emergence of the visual culture in Tamil Nadu, Freitag (2001) explores a new gaze theory. She writes that religious practices in Tamil Nadu include both the centrality of darshan [the beholding of a deity] and the special reshaping effected under bhakti [an act of devotion], and live performance and traditions. Gaze culture was the beginning of visual culture that later became the popular culture in India and Tamil Nadu. Vedikai parpathu (looking on at what is going on) is one of the practices of mass culture which is in vogue even today. Historical evidence shows that there were opportunities for this gaze culture right from the beginning of the Vijayanagara kingdom (1336-1646 CE). The people who gathered in royal courts watched events in the form of music and dance, poetry recital, challenging one's physical and intellectual powers, etc. as instances of the gaze culture. This private performance eventually became a public gaze event on the street corners, in market places, and in open fields. These included street theater, popular musical performance, textual exegesis, and wrestling.

The religious practices gave a religious sanction to this secular practice of gaze culture that evolved into a culture of darshan and bhakti. It is a mutual gaze between God and man. Man becomes a gazer and God becomes as gazed upon. Man becomes a believer and sees God in the eyes of faith. It is a mutual gaze and a relationship. Darshan helps to create a basic visual gaze vocabulary and a social space for experiencing and sharing of the same (Freitag, 2001, pp. 39-43). The audiences too were powerful because of their direct financial contribution and the votes cast regarding artist merit, power, and popularity. This powerful gaze helped shape the content and pronounced on the quality of the art produced. The subjects differed according to the region and the class and caste (Freitag, 2001, pp. 44-45).

The media events and mass culture of live performance that began from the royal court and merchant markets led to art photography and to cinema in order to fulfill popular aesthetic expectations. Through cinema, cultural specialization emerged immediately in various regions in order to satisfy needs and desires through this particular medium. For example there are in the theaters reserved boxes for ladies and couples only. Gaze culture or visual culture has become an inevitable one and the audience may choose any one of several alternatives posed visually. Consumption of an event or image also became a political act of great import. This political importance continues implying anti-imperial and anti-hegemonic connotations: for others, gaze becomes a form of resistance by those who see themselves cast in subaltern roles to indigenous freeholders who attempt to dominate on the basis of regional, caste, class, or gender identities. Thus the visual culture and the gaze culture have become the heart of the mass culture which assumes special meaning and relevance today owing to the subaltern dimensions of social relations (Freitag, 2001, pp. 61-65).

Consuming the cinema products ties individuals to a larger system of provision, linking private and public worlds. This has implications for the focus of what is at stake in considering the relationship between consumption and mass culture or popular culture for it is this practice that shapes public life, rather than the goods themselves or their symbolic value. Consumers through their everyday practices, consciously or unconsciously, leave an active mark on these larger social systems. The skills necessary for practice are performed, acquired, contested, and regulated, and they evolve over time. Examining Tamils watching cinema, viewing television, listening to film music, going through cinema magazines, buying other cinema products, and actively involved in fan clubs, and so on almost as habit provides a useful additional perspective for understanding the dynamics between consumption and Tamil mass or popular culture (Trentmann, 2007, p. 155).

C. Youth as consumers

In India people live in a mass-mediated society. Young people particularly become the focus of major concern with regard to the consumption of the mass mediated products. Without realizing or making little of the impact of cinema, the youth frequent the theaters for their entertainment. It is an opportunity for the youth to relax, to learn, to know, and to acquire information. At the same time it is a risk in as much as it threatens their cultural values and their identities in society. Media in general are the hope and at the same time a serious concern for society (Devadoss, 2006, p. 185).

By way of an example: The fans of the super star Rajinikanth tattoo themselves with his name, write his name with blood, and have opened some 15,000 fan clubs all over the country. They worship him like a demi-god when he appears on screen, performing the temple rituals of showering him with flowers, garlanding his billboards, and even bathing or anointing his image in milk. The youth spend their time, energy, and resources this way totally unmindful of values like self respect and self esteem to say the least.

By representing the objects of desire--riches, sex, youth, pleasure--the popular Tamil cinema mystifies youth and makes these objects not only exalted but coherent and understandable. The youth as viewers are able to grasp them, refer them to their life, and build a mythical society. The hero, story, heroine, etc. become their own. The youth become part of the story and do not feel alienated. They overcome their frustrations and feel good, calm, and fulfilled. The youth experience a sense of belonging which is an important psychological need and at least to some extent they feel fulfilled. Through the unreal they are exposed to the real. This way the cinema creates their world, or they create their own world mediated by cinema. It is as good as saying the cinema creates people (society) and people (society) create cinema. This is the power of myth, it creates and satisfies, it confers and exploits. The desires give meaning to the youth and so it grips them, guides them, and makes them recognize themselves. It thus becomes an ideology. It is in this sense that film can be seen as an intellectual, moral, and artistic construct capable of bearing a unique though somewhat ambiguous relation to reality (Valicha, 1988, p. 33).

D. Gender identities in cinema consumption

Gender roles are socially constructed and they are learned from the behavior pattern of the elders, especially as mediated by the popular media. Tamil cinema still perpetuates traditional gender stereotypes because it reflects dominant social values. The cinema narration also reinforces them, presenting them as natural and this is consumed by the audience. For example, the stereotypes of masculine domination and feminine submission are portrayed, often justified, and occasionally challenged in cinema, but the predominant images of male domination and female submission are generally reinforced by cinema. Many cinema narratives are still implicitly designed to be interpreted from the point of view of male domination.

Media texts, at least potentially, have a direct effect on their audiences, and the audiences have direct relationship with those texts. As for the audience-text relationship it is assumed that romantic beliefs, aspirations, and attitudes are put to work in the interests of a consumer society (Wilding, 2003, pp. 374- 375).

Audiences, particularly the men, learn and identify with male characters and treat females as objects of pleasure. As mostly depicted in many implicit and explicit ways, the male is expected to be physically strong, aggressive, assertive, taking initiative, independent, competitive, and ambitious. They mostly learn from cinema that men are supposed to be political leaders, aggressive, assertive, independent, and risk-taking. The girls on the other hand learn from most cinemas that the world is male dominated and learn to accept the man's world. Good women are presented as submissive, sensitive, and domesticated; whereas bad women are projected as being rebellious, independent, and selfish. Girls learn from the cinema that they are supposed to be pure, obedient, soft spoken, confined to the household and agriculture. They are supposed to be affectionate, gentle, sympathetic, dependent, emotional, nurturing, supportive of men, etc. Social status, marriage, age, education, job opportunities, nutrition and, in some cultures, even their very birth are some of the factors that still continue to operate as differences within the gender (Govindan, 2001; Devadoss, 2006, pp. 188-189). It is important to note that the transformation of contemporary visual pleasure, narrative cinema, mass culture, and the impact on the construction of gender very much depend on the various uses of technology (Oleksy, 1995, pp. 501-502).

E. Street children and cinema consumption

Street children as consumers think of themselves in the light of their past and present preferences: a person they like, a kind of music they enjoy, and a kind of movie they prefer. Many street children today grow up alone feeling abandoned, whether it is because of the loss of one or both of their parents, parental neglect, trouble at school, or some other similar reason. For street children friends are rare and relationships are often even rarer. So many children take the cinema stars as substitutes for their real family members and friends. However, in reality it is not only children who have this problem. For example, the unique style of super star Rajinikanth gives the children a momentum to perform unthinkable feats. Youth want to participate or share in his identity. Many adults too look to cinema as a substitute for companionship. They even find themselves turning to cinema for comfort to help fill the emptiness in their lives. Children may learn better from cinema because pictures serve as conceptual pegs from which information can be retrieved on recall trials (Perry, 2002, p. 123).

The consumer culture for the street children not only affected their material well being, it has also influenced all areas of their lives including their approach to, and practice of, religion. Indeed, consumer culture reduces all things--religious beliefs, values, and symbols-into mere objects of consumption rather than value systems that can give meaning and direction.

The potentiality of the cinema experience is dependent on the multiple sensory engagements with film: seeing, hearing. Cinema experience functions as mediating or transitional objects between the gazer and the gazed upon. Cinema experience might enable the audience to better understand the aesthetic experience of film. It might help the audience to negotiate with their relationship between inner physical and psychic reality and the external world. For children, cinema experience creates physical existence, but at the same time is pressed into the service of inner reality. The notion of a transitional object--a mediating force between materiality and inner consciousness which engages our emotions and psychic investments at a public level--is a useful tool through which to think not only about the cinematic experience as something between states or worlds but also about the relation between ourselves and the film we see and also in the context of a specific value system or culture (Hastie, 2007, pp. 294-295).

7. Cinema and Social Change in Tamil Nadu

A. Knowledge change

The monopoly of knowledge, as noted by Harold Innis (McQuail, 2005, p. 103), was exercised in India by the Hindu Brahmin priests who were the most powerful and important people in the society. They claimed they alone had the knowledge and the power to interpret the Manu traditions (the source book for the Indian penal code), as well as to interpret social customs and practices. Cinema made its entry in India in the first decades of the 20th century in a society built on caste stratification. Apart from its traditional occupation and status, every caste had its own entertainment too, and there was no interaction between them (Baskaran, 2002, pp. 2-3). The advent of the cinema technology challenged the exclusive claim of the Brahmins and broke their monopoly and brought equality in relationship and new desire for material and economic well being in society, especially among the so called lower castes (Sivathamby, 1983, p. 21). The significant role of the Tamil cinema in the social and political context is provided by Sivathamby as follows:

The Cinema Hall was the first performance centre in which all Tamils sat under the same roof. The basis of the seating is not on the hierarchic position of the patron but essentially on his purchasing power. If he cannot afford paying the higher rate, he has either to keep away from performance or be with "all and sundry." (Sivathamby, 1981, p. 18)

From this perspective, "technology was the answer to all social problems" (Eapen, 2001, p. 43), and cinema technology created a space for a certain kind of public, communal urban life. Inside the theater Tamils felt that they entered the public realm, but it was a self-contained realm. The public was made private by the darkness of the theater, and here in these dark places a version of the untold stories of the society were told. Cinema stories effectively erased the social untouchability, caste consciousness, religious supremacy, and economic dominance in Tamil society (Denzin, 1995, p. 14). Cinema is thus a powerful tool in shaping a society's opinion and changing traditions, customs, and practices (Ellis, 2007, p. 284).

Tamil cinema can break all the hurdles between the low and high among people. Cinema is no more to be taken lightly because it touches everybody irrespective of caste, clan, and religion. Now that this new technology has come to stay, it affects everybody's life, and no one can do away with it or take it lightly (Pandian, 1997, p. 24). It made the stars, ordinary mortals, into idols and brought changes in the idea of God, temple, and worship. Fan clubs were formed and a movie theater with its marquee was a permanent part of virtually a new community. Theater becomes sacred wherein the spectator could simultaneously experience the thrill, desire, dangers, and invasions of being both a voyeur and the subject gazed upon. Thus the individual experiences both private and public values. The old forms of visual culture and community are replaced by a new visual community (Denzin, 1995, p. 13).

Cinema technology also brought about changes in gender differences. It broke the barriers of social restriction for women and opened the doors of entertainment for women and children. Cinema brought about new socialization among the people and brought families together. It created new social groups based on the cinema stars and themes and the music. Movie going is a group event and not an individual act (Srinivas, 2002, pp. 159-165).

Watching cinema in groups not only offers occasions for collective visual experience, but it also explicitly encourages new forms of associations based on the visual interest and ideas that are developed and nurtured along with the people in the theater. This eventually leads to the formation of group movements that leads to social action as well. This visual community or fan clubs' involvement with the visual culture, which is dominant among all other entertainment and media, has reduced to a certain extent the anti-social activities in society particularly among the youth who otherwise would be idling their time and would be prone to such behavior.

That cinema technology would extend beyond a great finale of entertainment and could be used politically, religiously, socially, and for educational and animating purposes has become a reality. The touring film theaters facilitate the spread of electricity, transport, markets, and small shops which eventually brings an impetus for the development of the economy. It also indirectly helps the artists, billboard makers, painters, and other small skilled personnel. Theaters are generally located in the middle class neighborhoods and in densely populated areas. This has brought about a new marketing environment and created a new visual culture environment. Theaters became the status symbol of the new middle class and on the screen the middle class and the poorer classes would see lives of wealth and prestige played out by famous stars (Denzin, 1995, pp. 16-17).

B. Cinema technology and cultural change in Tamil Nadu

The cinema industry in Tamil Nadu plays a crucial role in the emergence of a cinema culture (Srinivas, 2003, p. 49). The state of Tamil Nadu considers cinema as an entertainment, as a business, and as an art form that is part of Tamil culture. Cinema technology because of its economic influence has become part of the national and international culture. It is what is called "mass culture." The Tamil cinema industry continues to please the people with its visual contents and thus creates a "popular visual culture": for example, in the "Rajini style" or the actress Simron's slim body shape. Cinema as a technology has changed the notions of culture and has brought new forms of political, aesthetic, and cultural beliefs and practices.

Cinema technology has brought about a revolution in creating different cultural forms: mass culture, public culture, popular culture, cinema culture, star culture, etc., which are different from crowd culture. What was considered to be high culture, great culture, classic culture, elite culture, official culture, traditional culture, and Brahmin culture are now changed with the arrival of the cinema technology that discovered or rediscovered and reconstructed the identity and cultural value in popular culture in a positive manner. In Tamil cinema the arrival of cinema music director Illayaraja (composer for nearly 900 Tamil films, Vamanan, 2003, p. 288) saw the dawn of a new era and a cultural revolution in the field of cinema music, and the popular culture assumed status, respect, and acceptance by the dominant social groups (Maruthuvan, 2002, pp. 6-20).

Tamil cinema created a new space which threatened existing cultural hierarchies as it liberally and creatively borrowed from high and low cultural forms at the same time recombining them into a new cultural product. For example cinema with its technology can have a disco dance number in traditional Bharatanatyam costume, just as the much welcomed Tamil film Jeans (2001), combined western and eastern, classical and folk music and dance (Pinney, 2001, p. 7).

Tamil cinemas are highly melodramatic and have the potential to challenge the dominant social order (Dickey, 1993, pp. 64-65). Tamil cinema music plays an important role in the spreading of popular culture in Tamil Nadu. Cinema songs as a popular cultural form were created under technical and market constraints, but gained immense popularity with the masses of listeners and viewers (Pendakur, 2003, p. 122; Reddy, 1989, pp. 405-407).

In order to understand the interaction of media and culture in Tamil society let us take the technology of music and analyze the way in which it affects the cultural products and the culture of the Tamil society. Tamil music, based on emotion and oral tradition, has changed a great deal by introducing western harmony in the melody. It has brought about uniformity to a medium which prides itself on the skill of each individual musician playing in concert. The arrival of the electronic synthesizers, electric guitars, bongo drums, and even the Parai (once considered untouchable among the musical instruments) has changed the entire tone of cinema music. On the other hand, the same technology has brought a great set back to the live artists, performers, and priests who became the cultural victims of the industry as the recorded version of ritual songs, marriage ceremonials, and prayers for all seasons and occasions were readily and easily made available. All these forms once considered a sacred monopoly of the priests have now become superfluous and are replaced by technology. It certainly has had an impact on social gatherings, the carrying out of rituals, chanting prayers, giving instructions, and mourning the dead. Hence the real artists and the priests have taken to other professions for their livelihood (Reddy, 1989, pp. 406-407).

C. Cinema technology and political changes in Tamil Nadu

The visual cinematic technology is basically hegemonic, touching all aspects of society. All personal, political, social, cultural, and economic dilemmas become converted into personal melodramas (Denzin, 1995, p. 30). As regards Tamil politics, practically all politicians have emerged from the cinema world. When talking about the cinema technology and its impact on constructing the political structures, one has to start from the talking-era of the Tamil cinema during the post independence period (David, 1983, p. 63). Almost every political party has its own TV channel for its own political propaganda (Sun TV, Jaya TV, Raj TV, Makkal TV, Vijay TV, Kalaignar TV). These television networks have challenged the monopoly of Doordarshan, the state owned television network. The strategy is successful because these channels are meaningful to the local linguistic culture and society (Sanjay, 2001, p. 72).

In the 1996 general election for the Tamil Nadu state government the television channels used video technology to create electoral propaganda. Following the lead of the cinema's contents on corruption, and noting its popularity among the masses, the political parties have manipulated the channels to persuade the voters. In fact, television using the cinema language can convince people irrespective of the truthfulness of the message. Using techniques more common in developed countries like America, politicians have discovered a world of difference in talking in front of media and talking in front of a crowd (Sivakumar, 2003, p. 46). Producers manipulate space and time to touch the emotion of the people. Visuals are impressive and powerful, and people generally believe what they see. Cinema's capacity to convince the crowd as if all is real knows no bounds. Using film technology, the political parties show visuals of joyous crowds clapping hands, women in wonder, flashes of sound and light, close-up faces, and positive facial expressions of the leader to impress and attract voters. The images' significance comes from the context and interpretations of a powerful commentator, and the visible evidence offered of a situation authenticates the carrier of the meaning and the commentary (Collins, 1983, p. 215).

The star's and the superstar's cinema image is one of the many ways in which the Tamil Nadu cinema industry attempts to assert its industrial status (Srinivas, 2003, p. 51). Politics and cinema have been inseparable in Tamil Nadu ever since star-politicians Annadurai, Karunanidhi, and M. G. Ramachandran (popularly known as MGR) realized the power of this cinema language in the 1970s and decided to exploit it to the full for their political careers. The biggest crossover success was of course MGR. His carefully cultivated do-gooder image in cinema made him the darling of the masses and helped transform him into an unbeatable politician. In the history of Tamil Nadu's election to the State Assembly only MGR managed to contest an election while undergoing treatment as a bed-ridden paralyzed patient at a hospital in the USA and won by a margin of 32,484 votes (Pendakur, 2003, pp. 99-100).

The Tamil political field has seen the entry of more and more movie stars stepping into Tamil politics. The present Chief Minister and DMK leader, M. Karunanidhi, is not a movie star, but a famous script writer for Tamil films. The biggest movie star to take Tamil Nadu politics by storm, the legendary M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), broke away from the DMK after accusing Karunanidhi of corruption and formed the AIADMK. MGR was one of the leading stars of Tamil cinema for almost 30 years, and ruled Tamil Nadu for 10 long years until his death in December, 1987. After MGR's demise, the leadership of the party was taken over by MGR's leading lady on screen and actor-turned-politician, J. Jayalalitha (Pendakur, 2003, pp. 100-101).

In 2006, another actor, Vijaykanth, set up his own party, the DMDK, and won an assembly seat for himself. Among the parties on the Left, the actor Karthik heads the All India Forward Block. The actor Sarath Kumar set up his party in August, 2007 and has had his first major state level conference with all glamour promising 33% reservation for women. The Viduthal Chiruthaigal Katchi leader, Thol. Thirumavalavan, is surely on the way to becoming a full time actor; he is only the latest example of the one-to-one relation between cinema and political career.

8. Cinema and identity

According to the economist Amartya Sen the theory of identity should be informed and enriched by two important traits. The first one is the idea that explains the basic questions with multiple answers, which give an idea about a person from the point of view of plural and multilayered identity encompassing nation, religion, gender, labor, interest, ideology, and so on. At the same time none of them can be taken to be the person's only identity. The second trait that Sen emphasizes is the need for choice by prioritizing the relevance of these various identities (Alexander & Sankar, 2007, p. 82). In this view, political structure holds primary importance to study the ideology and identity of individuals. Since Tamil Nadu is ruled by politicians whose background is cinema, it is important to study the political structure so as to understand cinema and the society's dominant identities. With this idea Tamil cinema can be understood in a better and holistic way. It has a multilayered identity that encompasses the entire cultural, political, social, and religious set of institutions. It also has its hegemonic identity, which still rules the industry (Prasad, 1998, p. 13).

A. Cultural identities

The core of the Tamil society is the family. The family plays a significant role in the transmission of traditions. Families in turn join to form clans, castes, and communities. Cultural traits had been handed over across generations through the channel of family using dance, music, drama, other performing arts like street play or koothu, and folk arts, which were mostly oral, as channels to communicate the cultural traits to the society. Communication served the ancient society in India in more than one way. It offered a job for every one according to one's caste identity in the process of production. The Indian communication philosophy is very simple as seen in the Natyashastra. It is to bring commonness between the sender and the receiver. The communicator sends a message with gestures, symbols, speech, and visuals as tools to simplify the message and to arouse response. It was a challenge for the artists at that time. The audience received the message actively with acceptance and pleasure. This process of producing new methods and tools in communication continues today (Reddy, 1989, pp. 398-399).

The cultural context in India-Tamil Nadu is marked by unequal relations that are rooted in centuriesold religious scriptures, customs, and social norms. This unequal treatment can be seen as various forms of discrimination based on caste and gender, including domestic violence against women. Women play a minimal role in the family which is the basic societal unit with prescribed traditional roles for every one (Panchanadeswaran & Koverola, 2005, p. 740).

Tamil films are made to focus on day-to-day life. They all illustrate the relationship between God and humans, between woman and man, and among family members--all of which is rooted in the identities. Tamil cinema frequently revolves around these stories as a solution for a problem, as an anxiety about a social situation. It may not be a realistic solution for the social problems, but it appears to be (Dickey, 1993, p. 89).

B. Religious identity

Of all the social institutions in society, religion is the most sensitive and fundamental. It has influenced every individual and found a very prominent and dominant place in society. Religion and arts are inseparable, and they influence each other. Religion controls the media and technology while media play the propaganda agent to religious values in every type of publication, including cinema, books, videotapes, general magazines and newspapers, and scholarly journals. The father of Indian cinema, Dada Saheb Phalke, rightly recognized the commercial viability of translating myths into cinema. The cinema as a new technology adopted religious themes to ensure mass appeal (Rao, 1989, p. 446).

In the beginning mythological themes dominated Tamil film. Mythology is not a fairy tale but a process of humanizing the unknown, to make it known. It is a passage from the known (human) to the unknown (divine), and myth is used as a stable point of transition. Myth is used as a symbolic language in order to reach the divine. So this symbol is the meeting point of the human and the divine as well as a vehicle for the personification of abstract values in human form (Rao, 1989, pp. 446-447). In fact, the Tamil cinema industry survives largely by Puranic and social stories.

In Tamil cinema Puranic stories dealing with gods and goddesses, heaven and hell, and films dealing with historical persons like Veerapandia Kattabomman and Kappalotia Thamizan are the pictures that have gone beyond time and space (Ramasamy, 1994, p. 296). People have recognized the same idea in that the film Veerapandia Kattabomman has served as a "textbook of history" contributing immensely towards consolidating Kattabommans's image in Tamil Nadu as India's first martyr (David, 1983, p. 63).

Cinema as a fast growing technology has brought some of the emotional qualities so close to the audience through actors that people have learned them without questioning. The culture of learning through audiovisual images is an ancient one among Tamils. They learn more by watching and imitating. This "gazing culture" has given cinema a prominent place in society till today (Sivakumar, 2003, p. 32). Cinema as a new technology is enabled to substitute all the passion for visuals to become a mobile gaze with immense power to satisfy the gaze culture (Freitag, 2001, p. 62).

In colonial times, the British government's aim was to promote the commercial interests of British film companies. The sensual attraction of foreign films, their superior quality with stunts and special effects, supported by the government, caused a set back in the local film industry. And so the producers decided that one sure way to attract the local audience was to offer films depicting local episodes, especially the well known stories from Puranas (Baskaran, 1996, pp. 6-7). The pantheon of innumerable gods and goddesses with their supernatural powers and remarkable resemblance in form and behavior to earthly human beings and with the rich and appealing variety of their sacred exploits presented the Tamil cinema with a dramaturgy that could exploit the technology of cinema to its fullest (Rao, 1989, p. 447).

This phenomenon of the content and style of foreign cinema influenced other parts of the country too. Local cultural factors like language worked as a shield and protective barrier to enable the local cinema to compete with the imported films (Pendakur, 2003, p. 25). Many social drama stories have been made into films in Tamil Nadu. Imitating the English stories and naming them with English titles were common in the film industry at that time (Narayanan, 1981, p. 81). So much so that it was an accepted code that if the actors appeared dressed in shirts and pants, those films were known as social. If they appeared in "divine" costumes, those were known as Puranic stories, and if they appeared in royal costumes, those were known as historical films. Actually the appeal of the visual image (costume) was so strong that the audience considered the nature of story as secondary (p. 70).

Since the stories were more familiar to the audience, the producers did not care much about indigenous cinematic vocabulary; that crippled the quality and the development of local cinema. The producers never bothered to learn the cinematic language but instead were content with the same old stories and methodologies of stage visuals (Baskaran, 1996, p. 9).

C. National identity

In pre-independence days, especially during the freedom movement, the purpose, priority, and the major content of the Indian cinema was the "national culture." It was the time when both bureaucrats and politicians, whether connected with cinema or not, repeatedly referred to the "national culture" (Ramasamy, 1997, p. 109). At the initial stage of sound cinema, most films made a special reference to the "national freedom," reflected in the titles, songs, and other dialogues (Narayanan, 1981, p. 47). Baskaran narrates that particularly in the 1930s and 1940s this spirit of Indian nationalism found expression in cinema with nationalistic songs and direct protest against the British rule, especially with the demonstration of the Non-cooperation movement. Gandhian social reform themes, including the prohibition of alcohol and the uplift of women and Dalits, were also the themes of the day in the cinema (Dickey, 1993, p. 53).

Tamil nationalism, formerly known as the Dravidian Movement, can be traced in its political identities, right from the beginning of the 20th century. It included all the four major Southern Indian languages. This identity of the Dravidian nationalism was made of many like-minded organizations and movements against Brahmins who formed a distinct racial and cultural identity of North India. According to this view of Tamil national identity, the Brahmin immigrants from the North had imposed the Sanskrit language, religion, and heritage on the South. This "selfrespect movement," started by veteran social reformist E. V. R. Periyar, demanded the dismantling of Brahmin hegemony, the abolition of Sanskrit, the revitalization of a pure Tamil language, a social reformation through the abolition of the caste system, religious practices, and recasting women's position in society. Gaining a political vigor, the movement focused on Tamil identity and the uplift of the poor. It even went to the extent of demanding autonomy and independence from India in order to maintain the integrity of Tamil consciousness, though the idea was given up later in favor of state autonomy within India (Moorti, 2004, pp. 552553; Dhara, 2006, p. 390).

The local and historical condition of Tamil politics within India and a century-long quest for a separate Dravidian nation find easy expression in the Tamil cinema industry. These expressions of vernacular identity are quite explicit in Tamil cinema and in modern Tamil channels which assert Tamil ethnic identity even today (Moorti, 2004, p. 552).

Tamil political life and culture are significantly marked by the ideology and practice of the political party Dravida Munnertra Kazhagam (DMK). The DMK's unchallenged grip over the audience is thanks to its rhetoric on "Tamilness," which was constructed in part by notions of maanam (honor) and valor. The concept of female chastity symbolised by the virtuous and valorous Kannagi, the heroine of Chialppathikaaram, one of the famous Tamil epics, was articulated within the confines of these political ambitions and reinforced by popular cinema culture (Dhara, 2006, p. 393).

C. N. Annadurai's appearance in the film industry changed the history of Tamil filmdom as it had earlier altered the course of Tamil theater and radical reform. It was the time when Dravidian movement was very strong in Tamil Nadu and every play was set with a reformist agenda of the Dravidian movement. His first film-play Velaikkari (maid servant) made a mark in society as a film with a strong social theme and message. He also became the founder of the DMK--the Dravidian political party. Tamil culture was fundamental for its politics and rationality was its philosophy. The party fought against the Brahmins and their religious superstitions. In order to free the Tamils from the clutches of the religious and caste hegemony of the Brahmins, the DMK was founded. It brought back the great Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar and his Tamil values to the people through popular cinema. It was a war against the Aryan ideals. Thus, this political structure was founded firmly on Tamil cultural values (Sivathamby, 1983, p. 40).

The next mile stone in the history of the Tamil cinema is Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi. His famous 1952 film Parasakthi was written by him keeping in mind the early DMK's demand for a sovereign Dravidanadu or Tamil homeland. However once the party tasted power and entered into electoral politics, it began to compromise on all these issues. The brave Tamil nationalistic slogans were replaced with "one caste and one god" (Rajadurai & Geetha, 1996, p. 560). It celebrated the greatness of Tamils and Tamil nation. This was an eye opener to bring the audience to the immediate realities of despair. This film touched the very core of the social problems and narrated the religious superstitions. It had its strong impact on the middle class people for its Tamil sentiments and ideals. Following these success stories the Tamil cinema industry produced a series of films on social themes, stories on Tamil ideologies like valor, love, chastity of women, and love for the Tamil language. It created a major revolution among the people and was considered as a threat to the high caste people (Baskaran, 1996, pp. 32-33).

The ethos of popular cinema has had a close relationship with Tamil political culture. The DMK used cinema as a tool for the propagation of its ideology. Many leaders of the DMK movement were also involved in Tamil cinema in their own capacity. M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) is still the most prominent even now, 20 years after his death (Dhara, 2006, p. 395). His popularity rested on his screen roles as subaltern hero combating everyday oppression.

In these oppressed roles MGR assumes all the privileges of his social superiors, the right to dispense justice, access to literacy especially for women, and the right to adopt the language and posture of authority. In his movies MGR would portray himself as a swashbuckling hero, a screen image that is located in the public domain or non-domestic space, historically and culturally constituted as men's exclusive preserve. Given this background we can understand the MGR phenomenon which would attract more male than female audiences, even though a major constituency from which MGR derived support was that of women (Pandian, 1996, p. 535).

D. Cultural narrative in Tamil cinema

Tamil cinema enabled a wider dissemination of Tamil culture and ideology. The cultural practices are still fused with cinema, for instance, the exuberant use of Tamil language. Tamil cinema helped to articulate the political and cultural ideology through various signs and symbols, such as Thali (the most valued and auspicious ornament worn by married women symbolising the marital bond). As cultural narratives Tamil films reflect the sentiments and aspirations of the Tamil people. The cinema industry takes special care to construct the social, cultural, and political values of society; as evidence we can refer to the blockbuster and super hit films produced in the period from 2000 to 2007. Table 1 (page 24) lists Tamil values in these films; it is organized according to social values. These are identified as being very popular and held in high esteem among Tamils today.

9. Conclusion

This overview began with the observation that Tamil cinema as an industry needs to be studied in the light of Tamil culture. The Tamil cinema industry has several sectors or segments; here, this study of the industry focused on its production, distribution, consumption, and impact on identity. The Tamil cinema favored mostly the social themes that were rooted in the Tamil language and culture. In its approach to entertainment Tamil cinema offers a visual narration in the form of popular culture intertwined directly with the lives of the people so as to enable them to consume various information, belief systems, and cultural commodities and thus fulfill social and cultural needs. Tamil culture along with the technology of cinema became popular among Tamils and brought social changes; it also reinforced social and religious sentiments, challenged the traditions and customs and also became a powerful tool in the hands of politicians. The review also described and clarified how Tamil cinema became the cultural expression of Tamil audiences and how the same is being continued today with reference to some of the recent popular cinema through which capitalistic forces construct the cultural commodities. People's psyche and world view are shaped by both cinema content and technology.


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Editor's Note: This essay comes from material that Fr. Jesudoss first prepared as part of his 2009 dissertation, "The Learning Impact of Tamil Cinema in the Lives of Street Children: An Empirical Research and its Relevance," presented to the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome (Thesis No. 712), with the readers, Professors Pasqualetti Fabio, Marie Gannon, and Devadoss Sagayaraj.

Perianayagam Jesudoss
Table 1. Tamil values in films

Dominant Cultural Interpretation
Cultural Traits

Language Title and name construct the
 entire life of Tamils and
 Tamil identity

Hero and Valor Should take care of the
identity society, should be able to solve
 the problem even to death,
 and sacrifice

Caste identity Should feel a strong sense of
 attachment to the caste one

Family Sacred social institution

Woman Thali, chastity or Karppu,
 virginity, Sarri, kunkumam,
 ideal woman

Romance or Sacred, sacrificing, and
kaadal risking even to the point of

Ancestor Ancestor worship is to be
worship, Mother revered and respected, honor
worship, Hero and worship. (Kulatheivam).

Amman Purity, sacrifice, loyalty of
worship women and their divine
 qualities are worshiped

Filial piety Obedience love and respect
 the to parents

Gender roles Gender roles and sexual
 mores in Tamil society have
 been specifically constructed
 to represent cultural carriers

Universality Brotherhood and cultural

Dominant Expressions
Cultural Traits

Language Summarizes case, class, region,
 gender, character, values,
 politics, economy, language, and

Hero and Valor Physically strong, morally
identity upright, mentally sound,
 legitimizing violence

Caste identity Names character, stories
 violation is condemned even to

Family Loyalty to death, sacrificing
 love, generosity, harmony, and
 happiness in joint family, good

Woman Loyalty to her husband, purity
 with divine power, sacrificing
 even to the point of death

Romance or Popular style, sentiment of
kaadal success, not encouraged outside
 the caste, clan, religion, and
 other social division, emotions
 are restrained in public

Ancestor Ancestors like mother, son
worship, Mother sacrificing their life for the
worship, Hero sake of the family and society
worship become their family deities.

Amman Woman are considered to be the
worship cultural carriers of the society
 and Tamil society is a maternal
 society giving saintly woman the
 place of honor and worship

Filial piety Children (sons) should obey their
 parents during their life time,
 take care of them and after their
 death the eldest son perform
 ritual sacrifices at their

Gender roles Father is to be demanding, mother
 is to be understanding, male is
 to be sacrificing and heir of
 the family, female cultural honor

Universality Able to treat others with
 respect and love

Dominant Film examples from
Cultural Traits 2000-2007
 by name of film

Language Vazhthugal
 Tirunelveli Sivagasi,
 Tiruppachi, Kartratu

Hero and Valor Virumandi
identity Pirumandi
 Paruthiveeran, Pokiri

Caste identity Oruthi

Family Thavamai
 Thavamirundu Veyyil

Woman VasoolRaja,

Romance or Boys Azhaghiyetheeye
kaadal KaadhalKirukkan

Ancestor Karuppusamy
worship, Mother kuthagaitharar
worship, Hero

Amman Karuppusamy
worship kuthgaitharar

Filial piety Emmagan,

Gender roles Verapu

Universality Autograph
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Author:Jesudoss, Perianayagam
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Date:Dec 1, 2009
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