Thamizh Talkies: For the love of the language
The writer is a film producer and an art curator
I grew up grasping the beauty of big Tamil words from the films of Sivaji Ganesan. I learnt from him that enunciating language with proper diction, delivery and dialect adds to a performance. The Tamil we speak in cities today is fragmented, with the various dialects of the language familiar to us, thanks to our films. Still, when a Kamal Haasan communicates in what’s being termed as ‘pure Tamil’, the immediate reaction is for people to ask why he doesn’t communicate in simpler words. “Like how we all talk,” they say. He does… when he is talking to someone. But when he addresses a gathering or does a video message or writes a pertinent Tweet, his Tamil makes for delightful learning.
While the era of plain rhetoric is lost with the likes of Kalaignar Karunanidhi and Sivaji Ganesan (pages from Parasakthi and Manohara are perhaps still alive in Tamil elocution competitions in schools), the way Kamal Haasan pushes the agenda of enunciating the Tamil language with its proper usage despite him being a high school dropout is inspiring to say the least. His latest tweet for Gandhi Jayanthi went: “Naattai Naasamaakkum Nayavanjagargalai Agatrivittaal, Naalaiya Kuzhandhaigal Engal Baaratha Dhesam Endru Thoalkottum (If we can remove the manipulators of our Motherland, our children of tomorrow will claim this India on their shoulders).” Both Kalaignar and Sivaji Ganesan must be smiling from the beyond, about how someone who grew up in front of their eyes, has emulated their love for the Tamil language thus!
I’ve written earlier about a Twitter handle called @oldtamilpoetry which is fairly self-explanatory on the content it puts out. The response to the daily posts on this handle is heartening. One must accord Haasan the same if not more applause, for doing his bit to ensure the longevity of the Tamil language.
Language is perhaps the first integral sign of civilised society. It is also an evolving aspect of a country’s culture and nature of expression. Tamil, like Telugu, has an ‘old soul’ flavour to it. This is why epic sagas are more believable when made in either of these two languages, like Baahubali. The fact that Sivaji Ganesan’s brilliant monologues from films like Rajarani (where he plays Socrates) and Gauravam where he plays barrister Rajinikanth, are still popular on YouTube, gives me hope that there is an audience that wants to listen to ‘pure Tamil’ too. While the language must be flexed for the story and character setting, it’s also important to keep in mind that we are speaking an evolved and highly literary language.
I end this piece with two lines from the film, Vanangaamudi, when the fiesty Kannamba assuages her angry son Sivaji Ganesan who, in turn, questions villain MN Nambiar for exiling him from his own land. Kannamba says:“Nee Sellum Idamellaam Unn Thaayagam Aagum, Konjum Thamizh Unn Koodavey Varum (Wherever you go, is your Motherland… Sweet Tamil will always be at hand).”