Film on Tamil leader sheds light on Netaji's secret years

By Papri Sri Raman

Chennai, Feb 22 (IANS) A new film on Tamil leader Pasumpon Muthuramalingam Thevar will throw light on his close association with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his claim that he met the Indian revolutionary in 1956, more than 10 years after Netaji was reportedly killed in a plane crash over Taiwan.

The documentary, to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Thevar, will deal with the time Bose spent in hiding with Thevar's connivance. Titled "Pasumpon Thevar Varalaaru", the documentary narrates the life story of Thevar, who hailed from Pasumpon village of Tamil Nadu's Ramanathapuram district. Thevar saw Netaji as his mentor, the film's director M.P. Abraham Lincoln told IANS.

Bose, a believer in armed struggle against the British rule in India, disappeared in August 1945, two years before the country became free. "Thevar met Netaji for the first time at a conference in Chennai in 1927. From his first meeting till his death, Thevar spoke about Netaji. "Thevar's relatives say, with evidence, that when Bose was in hiding (in 1927) he stayed with Thevar for over a year at his estate in Pulichikulam. The British police had even set up wireless equipment to monitor Netaji's movement in the area. We have included this chapter in Muthuramalingam's life in our documentary," Lincoln said.

"It was Thevar who, with evidence, said he had met Netaji in 1956 - which means many years after he is said to have died in a plane crash. The Indian government did not have any proper replies to the questions raised by Thevar then," Lincoln added. Thevar was an MP when he announced in parliament that he had met Netaji, said Lincoln.

The Central Information Commission has asked the government to make public 29 "top secret" files on Bose under the Right To Information Act. I.B. Karthikeyan's Papillon Communications has made the 75-minute documentary with a budget of Rs.10 million. The film will be released worldwide in March.

"We began the research 18 months ago and shooting started last October. Thevar is a national leader. He worked for the freedom of the country along with Subhas Bose; yet he is known today only as the leader of one caste. The story of his spartan life and his reform is hidden from the outer world," Lincoln said.

"About two years ago, I.B. Karthikeyan was searching the internet for details of Thevar's life. To his dismay, he did not find even a single website which could tell him Thevar's complete life story.

"He immediately started collecting facts, rare photographs and video footage of Thevar. We looked at the history and decided to make a documentary so that the future generation may know something about this great Tamil leader," he said. A rich landowner, Thevar donated most of his land to the poor and spent more than five years in British jails.

"We have not made anyone act out the role of Thevar. Instead, we have used 3D animation to depict him when continuity in narration was needed," the director said. The film was shot in Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli, Uraiyur, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, Aaduthurai, Vellore, Kallupatti and Pulichikulam.

An elected member of the Tamil Nadu assembly and the Lok Sabha, his political image was tarnished by a violent anti-Dalit incident. An assembly by-election was held in Muthukulathur in July 1957, when Thevar who had won the seat, vacated it. The seat was won by another member of the Forward Bloc, Thevar's party.

Clashes between the Thevar community, that largely supported the Forward Bloc, and Dalit groups supported by the Congress led to large-scale rioting and burning of Dalit villages in Ramanathapuram during 1957 and several lives were lost. "The Muthukulathur incident has also been filmed without any deviation from the truth. The Muthukulathur incident was nothing but a conspiracy hatched by the rulers of those days to destroy the belief the people had on this impeccable leader.

"Those affected by this incident, the local villagers, have themselves narrated their version of what happened. We have only used these accounts in our story," Lincoln said. Yugabharathi has penned three songs for the film, while Vijay Antony has scored the music and actor Vagai Chandrasekar has lent his voice to the narration.

Asked about the future of such historical films, Lincoln said: "Only commercial films are well received. But many corporate companies are into filmmaking now and with their help we hope to make a full-length feature film on Thevar some day."