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Tamil Film on the Explosive Subject of Vegetarianism Is Surprise Hit

Author:   |  Published: July 22, 2014  |  Leave your thoughts

In a state where not eating meat is associated with Brahminism, it is remarkable that the film has not attracted charges of reinforcing casteism.

A Tamil film espousing vegetarianism is not only running to packed cinemas across the state, but also winning critical acclaim in the regional press. Titled Saivam, the film was released on June 27 in more than 220 theatres in India and abroad.

In Tamil Nadu, where vegetarianism is a euphemism for Brahminism and where contemporary politics has been shaped by a social movement with a strong anti-Brahmin current, the film’s success is remarkable because it has so far not faced accusations of caste bias or imposing Brahmin values.

“I hear the film is running to full houses although it is too early to say what the collection figures are,” said AL Vijay, the 33-year-old director. “But I hope Saivam‘s success will put to rest scepticism about whether a film can tackle an inflammatory subject like vegetarianism.”

The film was made on a small budget. Inspired by the film’s message, many of the actors and technicians declined to take fees, said Vijay, who has consistently produced commercial successes of films with unusual themes. For Saivam, the producers have won rights to remake the film in Telugu, are in talks for a Hindi remake and plan to take it to festivals abroad.

While the film does include some of Tamil cinema’s stock elements, such as a teenage love story, songs and comic escapades, it is never crass or preachy, conveying its message with nuance and subtle nudges. It contains laugh-out-loud situations, but no violence or melodrama.

More to the point, it has not attracted controversy probably because it has been able to convey that it is advocating vegetarianism out of a compassion for animals and not a concern for caste purity.

“A big handshake to the filmmaker, who has made a movie of a chicken-biryani family turning vegetarian,” said Kumudam, a popular weekly. A review in Dina Thanthi, a leading Tamil daily, said that the film’s strength lay in expanding a one-word subject into an absorbing tale….read more.

Feature image courtesy of Scroll.in.