Activism in Tamil Cinema Music - The various facets of activism in Tamil film songs - Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan | India

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M.A.P // A.M.P | Activism in Tamil Cinema Music © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi

The various facets of activism in Tamil film songs
Activism in Tamil Cinema Music

This project attempts to give the viewers an insight into the multi-dimensional nature of activism, which led to Tamil cinema becoming unique in the ways that it approached and made possible the sensitization of millions of people when it comes to understanding their ‘Tamil’ identity. This video series commences with an introduction, followed by seven episodes highlighting the following topics.


What the episodes would like to communicate, as an undercurrent, is the importance to realize that activism need not always be focused on anger and furious expressions. The goal of activism is to sensitize and make fellow citizens aware of the larger eco-sphere in which they are situated. Such activism encourages viewers and listeners to come up with their own independent initiatives to achieve their goals.

Video Series

This video introduces the series exploring Activism in Tamil Cinema Music.

Episode 1
Focusing on the social and political problems that were faced by Tamil citizens following years of colonial power; problems that further worsened after independence due to post-colonial misrule.

Episode 2
Unpacking the evocative power of Tamil language. The series anchors, K. Hariharan and Subhasree Thanikachalam, explore how language has been used to describe and contest existing cultural scenarios.

Episode 3
In episode three, we see how rural farmers and urban working classes are invoked to step forward and make their voices heard.

Episode 4
Addressing concerns of women and children who are usually marginalized in most urban economic processes.

Episode 5
Advocating the preservation of the rich and abundant environment for the advancement of the Tamil people.

Episode 6
The penultimate episode looks at how activism has been cleverly disguised in order to not hurt and demoralize fellow citizens.

Episode 7
Cautioning urban developers and citizens against the reckless growth of cities in unscientific ways that could harm progress.

About the Project

In order to comprehend the topic of ‘Tamil Cinema and Activism’ it needs to be studied via multiple intersections through a layered approach. A deep dive into the Dravidian movement from the 1920s onwards, makes one realize how Tamil cinema took that impetus and raised it to a different level of awareness.

The episodes that you will see shall be like an excavation trying to retrieve these multiple pathways buried in the sands of time.

Interspersed with relevant songs, Subashree Thanikachalam, a walking encyclopedia of Tamil film songs, and K Hariharan, film director, producer and writer shall analyse the layers of activism and the underlying messages that guided a popular cinema movement through their film songs, their writers, music composers and their iconic actors.

Tamil cinema and its massive growth/ influence stands testimony to such a collaborative enterprise undertaken by writers, music composers, actors and a long line of technicians. It is no wonder that Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is still today acknowledged as the main centre for cinematic growth and standards.

These episodes cannot obviously be exhaustive but have been made with the hope that you shall go back to rediscover these Tamil films, and review them with a new perspective. Millions of Tamil-speaking people have embraced them wholeheartedly as a mark of their new modern identity, and continue to hear and sing them to this day!