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Tamil Brahmin’s transformation to urban middle class

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By- M R Narayan Swamy

Title: Tamil Brahmans, The Making of a Middle Class Caste, Authors: CJ Fuller and Haripriya Narasimhan, Publisher: Social Science Press.

This is a fascinating, scholarly work, yet eminently readable, on how Tamil Brahmans, who for centuries were a traditional, mainly rural, caste elite, occupying the throne of a caste order, transformed over time into a modern, urban, middle-class community.

In this clearly first exhaustive book on the subject, CJ Fuller and Haripriya Narasimhan combine original research and extensive study to explain how Tamil Brahmans embraced education and job opportunities during the British Raj to become the middle class they are today, with a strong presence particularly in the booming private sector.

In this they were “an unusual social group” which knew how to remain in touch with the past even as it climbed the ladder of economic success – something that, the authors point out, the Telugu Brahmans or the Kerala Namboodiris failed to do. The Tamil Brahmans are a good example of “how and why privileged status within a hierarchical society can be perpetuated in the face of major social, cultural, economic, political, and ideological changes”.

The number of Brahmans in Tamil Nadu, according to the 2011 Census, is about 1.78 million, of whom Tamil Brahmans account for 1.40 million. Overall, in India and abroad, this must be 1.85 million. Today, the vast majority of them have been drawn into the urban middle class, leaving behind their once exclusive quarters in villages known as “agraharams”.

The Brahmans’ role as the custodian of Sanskritic Hinduism has always been salient for their caste status. This eventually pitted them against the Dravidian mass in Tamil Nadu, rapidly reducing the Tamil Brahmans’ once influential hold over politics into a virtual zero. But instead of going into a shell, the Tamil Brahmans adapted more easily to newer opportunities and saw modernity as less threatening to their social and cultural traditions. In the process, an old caste elite got transformed into a modern middle-class group.

Among the Tamil Brahmans who rose to prominence in both an early era and later included T Muthusamy Iyer, the first Indian judge in the Madras High Court, lawyers V Bhashyam Iyengar, S Subramania Iyer and CP Ramaswamy Aiyar, engineers SA Subrahmanyar Aiyar and V Ganesh Iyer, mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, scientists and Nobel laureates CV.Raman (1930), his nephew Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1983) and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (2009). That Tamil Brahmans bagged three Nobel prices should not be surprising because the community took to law, science and civil service in a big way – and then made its mark in many other professions.

The Tamil Brahmans have also changed in many other ways. Although they tend to marry within the community, Iyers (or Shaivites) are seen as less conservative than Iyengars (or Vaishnavites). Their family sizes have shrunk, and parents rarely worry if both their children are daughters. Young Tamil Brahman women have more control over their matrimonial affairs. And today, Tamil Brahmans are dispersed across India and abroad, mainly in urban centres, and rural Tamil Naduis no longer their homeland in any meaningful sense.

The majority of Tamil Brahmans see themselves as both fully modern and authentically traditional, the authors say. Dislocation and disorientation are actually remarkably absent from the Tamil Brahman’s certain sense of themselves as both modern and traditional. But, then, this book is mainly about the Tamil Brahman upper middle class.

(IANS) (pic courtesy: amazon.in)

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Top 10 must watch Tamil movies of 2017

Kollywood produced some of the best movies in 2017. The Tamil movies produced this year varied in genres from beautiful love stories to suspense thrillers. 

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Baahubali 2 was one Tamil movie which achieved success all over the world. Wikimedia Commons
Baahubali 2 was one Tamil movie which achieved success all over the world. Wikimedia Commons
  • Kollywood is growing each year and is giving us more and more movies to ponder over.
  •  In 2017, some Tamil movies left us awe-struck with their amazing stories and performances.
  • Movies like Vikram Vedha, Aruvi, Maanagaram, etc. definitely proved to be some of the best films of 2017.

Kollywood produced some of the best movies in 2017. The Tamil movies produced this year varied in genres from beautiful love stories to suspense thrillers.

In 2017, many new fresh faces were introduced on the and behind the screen. There were several movies which pushed the conventional limits of cinema, and became memorable. Here is the list of 10 must watch Tamil Movies of 2017 :

Vikram Vedha

This movie is not exactly a ‘masala’ entertainment film. With a tight script, great technicalities and amazing cast performances, this Tamil movie became a huge box office hit. Movie may seem cliche at first, however, once Vedha enters the screen the whole dynamics of the movie changes and it takes audience on a roller-coaster ride. This one is a must watch. Have a look at the trailer here :

Pa Paandi

Pa Paandi is a Tamil comedy-drama film written and directed by Dhanush. This movie also marked Dhanush’s directorial debut. It has Rajkiran in the lead role. This movie shows, that as we run towards different things in life, we tend to forget about our elders who wander behind with agendas of their own. This film makes one feel fuzzy and it’s impossible to dislike anyone in the film. Check the trailer out here :

Maanagaram

This one is a simple yet entertaining film, which will keep you glued to your seat. One of the year’s biggest hits, this film has made all its viewers, critics and producers happy. With a brilliant and pacy screenplay, and brilliant performances, this Tamil movie is a must watch. Check the trailer out here :

Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion

This one is quite obvious. Great visual effects, amazing performances and the foreshadow of the success of its predecessor, and SS Rajamouli’s direction, all have made this movie an international blockbuster. Not only this one solved the famous ‘Why Kattapa killed Baahubali’ question, but also, it is a great entertainer. This one is a must watch and it won’t disappoint you. Check the trailer here :

Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu

Suresh Sangaiah’s drama movie, deserves a medal just for its name, which translates to ‘mercy petition of a scapegoat’ in English. It is a beautiful ‘slice of life’ movie which is really heart-warming. The film shows a village which encounters a strange situation as they travel to a distant temple to slaughter a goat for the lord. this movie delivers its story brilliantly. Check the trailer here :

Kurangu Bommai

This tamil movie came as pleasant surprise this year with a new face behind it. Kurangu Bommai is another film that familiarised us with hyperlink cinema. The film is well crafted and its beauty lies in how the story is told more than it is told. Check the trailer here :

8 Thottakal

8 Thottakal is a long film but its good qualities make up for it. There was much to like in this crime-thriller flick, but MS Bhaskar’s role and his performance were excellent. The conflict and layers in the characters will make you think and glued to your seat. Check the trailer here :

Aval

This one is for a fan of horror movies. Debutante director Milind Rau’s Aval is definitely a memorable film. This technically sound horror film, has some clever writing and a mature relationship to be seen on the screen. Milind made an impressive debut with fresh content. The movie might not be very scary but it can definitely keep you hooked.

Aruvi

Aruvi is one film that threw all stereotypes out of the box.  Arun Prabhu Purushothaman’s writing’s authenticity will make you forget everything else and will make you wanna indulge in this film more and more. Aruvi is also a great example of the fact that good content can be commercially successful if marketed properly. This Tamil film brings in a new perspective which you will definitely enjoy.

Theeran: Adhigaram Ondru

This one might not have a perfect scrip but the research done to bring the real incidents on the screen is really worth applauding. The second part of movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. The natural portrayal of hardships faced by police while resolving a cases is another USP for this Tamil movie. This thriller definitely deserves to be on your must-watch list.