Very interesting development this. The grand old man of the Dravidian movement, Karunanidhi, is scripting a serial on Ramanuja. As a boy growing up in an intensely Vaishnavaite family, I was brought up revering Vedanta Desikan, Alwars and Ramanuja and was taught that there was nothing good about the Dravidian movement (because they use to openly lampoon our gods and made fun of Brahmins etc). As I grew up I came to admire several of their causes: their opposition of the imposition of Hindi (language is such a fundamental thing for humans; even if 5 per cent of Tamil Nadu wanted to speak / study in their language as opposed to Tamil, I would fight for their right to do so), their wanting to create a truly casteless society, their idea of using science and rationality as opposed to silly religious superstition like astrology (it beats me how even educated people justify astrology) and which sane person will not be moved by the fact that the first bill signed by C.N. Annadurai when the Dravidian party came to power was the Hindu Marriage Act of 1967 recognizing various kinds of marriages without a Hindu priest. I suppose being removed from their immediate (alleged) atrocities (against Brahmins), it becomes easier to admire their abstract core idealogical beliefs.

Karunanidhi is a beautiful writer. I remember a lesson we had in class X on a verse from Thirukkural. I was “taught” to not like his writings but I was drawn to his arresting and deeply beautiful prose. There is a beautiful story, with comical effect, in Ramayana where Hanuman (or is it Angadhan?) tries to explain the ecstasy of chanting Rama’s name to Ravana who scoffs at the idea but once Hanuman begins chanting the name, Ravana is entranced and he chants too, before he shakes himself off it. One can say I had a similar experience reading Karunanidhi.

One thing that will be interesting is that as an outsider, he might be able to hit at the essential core of Ramanuja’s teachings that perhaps Vaishnavite followers do not see. Also, both of these ideologies, Vaishnavism and the Dravidian movement, are beautiful in principle, with their central ideas valid for all time and for all people and not only their core followers, but seem to have sadly gotten corrupt over time.

An unrelated aside to this is that amongst all Mani Ratnam movies, Iruvar is perhaps his magnum opus.

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