Explained: The Ongoing Controversy Around Vetrimaran's remarks on Raja Raja Chola!

(This article is authored by Alar)

Of late, there have been many instances where films' religious themes have incensed viewers or where progressive ideas have offended audiences. Director Vetrimaran's speech on Raja Raja stirred outrage as many celebrities are endorsing his point of view. In contrast, others are not pleased with the assertion, which comes amid rising religious communal tension that is already a growing trend. The controversy has been growing bigger and bigger every day. 

After Vetrimaran's remarks at MP and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol Thirumavalavan's (VCK) 60th birthday celebrations on October 1, and following the release of director Mani Ratnam's magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan: Part One, which is based on author Kalki's fictional Tamil novel inspired by the Tamil emperor Raja Raja Cholan, the ongoing discussion accelerated.

He said, "Art should be treated rightly. If we fail to do so, very soon we will lose out identities. They are constantly misappropriating our identities. Like, cladding Thiruvalluvar in saffron, presenting Raja Raja Cholan as a Hindu king. Our identities are being erased. Art is inherently political. Our very existence is political. Knowingly or unknowingly, we occupy a certain political space. Cinema is an art form which very easily reaches common people and it is essential to make cinema political."

Post effects of the filmmaker's speech:

Mr. Thirumavalavan |  Founder and President of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Party:

In a social media post, he said, "During the time of Raja Raja Chola, Saivam and Vainavam were different. Religious symbols ‘Thiruneer Pattai’ and ‘Thiruman Namam’ were different. The two openly fought against each other and heads rolled in the sludge of blood. There were continuous conversions. In those times, where was Hindu when present day Lingayats themselves are saying that they are not Hindus and are protesting,"

Khushbu Sundar | Actress, Bharatya Janata Party member:

Their vision is what they have in mind. Their point of view is the issue. That is how they (Vetrimaaran) see things. Vetrimaran must alter his viewpoint. People should, however, reconsider their stances. You must consider it from the perspective of the general public. If Vetrimaran is unable to see, something is wrong with his vision.

Karunas | Actor, Politician:

What Vetrimaran said was a very real and accurate concept. The Tamil moral code forbids referring to Rajaraja Chola as a Hindu king. What was Hindu during the reign of Rajaraja Chola? The British came up with the name "India" for commercial purposes. They also developed Hinduism. In the Indian Union, where people of various nationalities coexist, having different religions is only natural. That is diversity in unity. The issue here is when a single religion emerges and tries to eat the rest of them whole. Hinduism didn't exist back then. numerous faiths, including Saivism, Vaishnavism, and Ashivkam. Rajarajan is known to have worshipped Lord Shiva. But referring to Rajaraja as that is absurd. Director Vetrimaran has given the warning that it is coming as a defensive speech. That is perfect. We need to become more aware.

Perarasu | Filmmaker:

If we respond to someone who disparages Hinduism, we are immediately labeled as religious fanatics. Rajaraja Chola is described by Vetrimaran as a Hindu. So, what else could Rajaraja Cholan have been beside a non-Hindu, like a Christian or a Muslim? India was divided into provinces during the British era when they controlled our nation. There was a change, so we combined the two words to form India. Likewise, everything demands modification. Saivism and Vaishnavism were two of the numerous religions that once made up the Indian religion. Hinduism is the name given to the system created by the British. Why are you talking about Hindus if you are not a Hindu? Atheists shouldn't discuss Hinduism when discussing atheism. an individual who discusses is not a human being, and anyone who speaks disparagingly of other religions is not a human being.

Kamal Hassan | Actor, Politician, Filmmaker:

There was no name called ‘Hindu religion’ during Raja Raja Cholan’s period. There was Vainavam, Shivam, and Samanam, and it was the Britishers who coined the term ‘Hindu’ since they didn’t know how to refer to it collectively. It is similar to how they changed Thuthukudi into Tuticorin.  There were several religions during the era and in the 8th-century Adhishankarar created ‘Shanmadha Stabanam’. Let’s not exaggerate or twist history or bring language issues into this.

Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan | Governer of Telangana:

They try to conceal the symbols in Tanjore's enormous temple, which I watched growing up. When cultural identities are being concealed, let's all unite and speak out. Numerous signs are already concealed. If Hindu cultural identity is rejected out of necessity, it cannot be accepted. Tamils identify themselves by their worship. The two key pillars of Hinduism are Saivism and Vaishnavism. They work to conceal their Hindu heritage. To attempt to conceal Hindu identities in that way would not be proper.