Existential Void

Courtesy: The Indian Express, February 5, 2023

Article by Kirubhakar Purushothaman and expert opinion by Charu Nivedita et al.

On January 11, 2023, a 19-year-old Ajith fan named Bharath Kumar climbed on top of a lorry that was moving past the Rohini Cinema Complex in Koyembedu, Chennai. As he was dancing to celebrate the first-day-first-show of his idol’s Pongal release, Thunivu, he lost his balance and fell down from the vehicle, hurting his spinal cord. Bharath was rushed to a private hospital, but he died due to the injury.

On April 24, 2020, an ardent fan of Rajinikanth in Villupuram got into an argument with a Vijay fan about who had donated more for coronavirus. Things escalated to a point where the Rajinikanth fan in a fury pushed the Vijay fan, leading to his death.

One can go searching for such tragic stories online and they would keep piling up. “That’s what will happen here. There’s no other way,” says prolific Tamil writer Charu Nivedita, who is known for his unabashed criticism of Tamil cinema and culture. Charu has been writing about the appalling fandom in Tamil cinema for decades, and according to him, the biggest reason behind such culture is the existential void. “We as humans are bored and need some sort of ‘let out’. For me, literature filled the void. For our society, it is cinema. The youngsters need some sort of hold in life and they, unfortunately, hold on to cinema over everything else,” he says.

However, as a cultural critic, Charu says things have gone from bad to worse over the years. “The quality of entertainment has gone down immensely. Back then, during my youth, we had magazines, we had Kalki (a magazine known for its novels like Ponniyin Selvan), and a few other avenues. Now, it has come down to this reel-making generation, where our dances and songs are all about cinema. Even if you chance upon cultural events in schools, you will find kids dancing to only cinema music because we don’t know anything else,” he adds.