National award winning Tamil director Vetrimaaran’s statement that Rajaraja Cholan was not a Hindu king, has opened the floodgates for a debate regarding the emperor’s religious identity which also received backing from actor turned politician Kamal Haasan.
Vetrimaaran had reportedly said at an event: “Our identities are already being erased. Be it cladding Thiruvalluvar in saffron, or presenting Rajaraja Cholan as a Hindu king, such things keep happening (in our society). This will also happen in cinema and many identities are (already) removed from the cinema. We should protect our identities.
Interestingly, Vetimaaran`s remarks came just a day after the release of the film `Ponniyin Selvan: 1` which is based on a fictional novel inspired by Raja Raja Cholan. Although Vetimaaran did find support from Haasan, BJP came all guns blazing at the director. BJP leader H Raja has stated that Raja Raja Chola was indeed a Hindu king.
Vetrimaran cautioned that since cinema is a common medium, it is important to understand politics to protect one’s representation. Replying to Vetrimaaran’s claim, BJP leader H Raja stated that Raja Raja Chola was a Hindu king. “I am not not well versed with history like Vetrimaran, but let him point out two churches and mosques built by Raja Raja Cholan. He called himself Sivapadha Sekaran. Wasn’t he a Hindu then?”, questioned H Raja.
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan has now come out in support of Vetrimaaran and said that there was no term as Hinduism during the Chola era.
“The name Hinduism was not there in the time of Raja Raja Cholan, there was Vainavam, Saivam and Samanam. This name was kept by foreigners not knowing what to call. Like they called Thoothukudi as Tuticorin,” Kamal Haasan said. “There was no name called ‘Hindu religion’ during Raja Raja Cholan’s period. There was Vainavam, Shivam and Samanam and it was the Britishers who coined the term ‘Hindu’. As they didn’t know what to say, they changed Thuthukudi into Tuticorin ”, stated Makkal Neeti Maiyam party leader Kamal Haasan.
Kamal Haasan, who watched Ponniyin Selvan, with the cast and crew, also requested that it is the moment to celebrate a fiction based in history. “Let’s not exaggerate or twist history or bring language issue into this”, he said.
In 2019, film director P A Ranjith sparked controversy after he criticized the king. He said at that time that the rule of the erstwhile king was a dark age for Dalits. He claimed, “Land had been forcibly taken away from them and many forms of caste oppression had begun during Raja Raja Cholas’s reign”.