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Iraniyan – An Anti-Caste Communist Hero

Karthick Ram Manoharan, University of Wolverhampton

All About Ambedkar: A Journal on Theory and Praxis, Volume 1, Issue 1, September-December, 2020, 77-81



In the 90s, there was a steady production of caste(ist) films in Kollywood. Some of these films that glorified the landlord culture of certain intermediate castes, like Chinna Gounder (1991), Thevar Magan (1992), Yejamaan (1993), were huge hits at the box office. Likewise, scholars have written on how Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1994), another hit, boosted a rigid Indian nationalism and a Hindu upper-caste culture (Pandian). For Tamil teens growing up in the 90s, such films were staple diet on the various TV channels in the state. But there was one film which was released in the end of the 90s which challenged the conventional cinematic narratives of caste in that decade. Vincent Selva’s Iraniyan (1999) is a film loosely based on the life of ‘Vattakudi Iraniyan’, a communist from the Tanjore district who rebelled against the local landlords and was killed by the police on May 1950. Unfortunately, in his centennial, both the rebel and the film about him have been forgotten in public discussions. This article elaborates on the significance of the film and its historical foundation.

Karthick Ram Manoharan is Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the University of Wolverhampton. He is working on the project “Freedom from Caste: The Political Thought of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy in a Global Context” funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.



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