Tamil cinema, with few exceptions, is thoroughly rooted in Hinduism. It is a cinema for the most part made by Hindus for a Hindu audience. Other religious denominations or identities are largely absent on screen, and exist at the margins of popular Tamil cinema. Hinduism, therefore, is both a dominant and hegemonic force within Tamil cinema. By acknowledging that Tamil cinema is inherently Hindu at its core, I want to suggest that it has had an intimate and long-standing connection with Hinduism. In this article I trace the relationship between the technology of cinema and the expression of Hinduism and suggest that this is a complex, shifting and contradictory one. Focusing on specific films and key milestones in the history of Tamil cinema, I discuss the various ways, explicitly and implicitly, that religion has been mediated, the purposes for which religion has been employed, the invention of new film genres, and the relationship between religion and identity to underscore that Hinduism and Tamil cinema continues to have, an intimate and symbiotic relationship.
Indian Cinema, Tamil Cinema, Hinduism, Religion, Identity
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Selvaraj Velayutham is a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Macquarie University, Australia.His research interests are in the areas of migration, cultural diversity and the sociology of everyday life. He is the author of Responding to Globalization: Nation, Culture and Identity in Singapore and co-editor of Everyday Multiculturalism.