Tamil Nadu politics and Tamil cinema: a symbiotic relationship?

Selvaraj Velayutham, Vijay Devadas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From the second-half of the twentieth century, a nascent Tamil cinema became increasingly influential in Tamil society and more prominent in political life. The Dravidar Kazhagam, founded by Periyar E. V. Ramasamy in 1944, morphed into the DMK and AIADMK, two dominant state political parties in Tamil Nadu. Through the medium of film, some of its leading lights, C. N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi, M. G. Ramachandran and Jayalalitha, cultivated cinema audiences and the voting public in the political ideologies of the Dravidian movement and subsequently became Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu. The symbiotic relationship between politics and Tamil cinema has meant that political and social commentaries and the assertion of Tamil nationalistic ideas was commonplace in Tamil films. In recent years, Tamil cinema has become the vehicle for raising a wide range of concerns ranging from caste, class and gender and state/nation politics, marking a shift that focusses on everyday politics in the state. In this article, we present a critical survey of the role of Tamil cinema in disseminating particular realities and politics of identity that speak to an essentialised notion of Tamil cultural and linguistic identity, the concomitant disavowal of broader conceptions of Indian-ness or belonging to the Indian nation, as well as the use of cinema to address everyday politics in the State.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-117
Number of pages22
JournalSociety and Culture in South Asia
Issue number1
Early online date13 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • cultural politics
  • cultural sociology
  • culture and media
  • Tamil cinema


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