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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dravidian Politics in Hard Cover

There seems to be a big publishing boom in India with more and more Indian authors coming out with English books. It has become pretty common to see atleast two or three book launches every week. We are having a situation where popular foreign books are priced cheaper than some of the works of the Indian writers. I simply don’t understand why the new launches in India need to be brought out in Hard Cover format. The logic behind the Hard Cover format in the West could be the motive to milk the market. I still believe that the India Writers in English (IWE) don’t enjoy a wide readership and attractive pricing and marketing are key to reach out to the Indian audience. This is some area where Rupa & Co. and Chetan Bhagat have achieved tremendous success and other authors and publishers could learn a thing or two from them.

Hitting The Market During Poll Time

Election fever is pretty high in TN and Vaasanthi has seized this opportunity in launching her new book on the inner workings of TN politics. The book has been launched in Hard Cover format and retails at Rs. 425. Given that the book targets only readers from a particular state (or who are interested in the affairs of a particular state), I feel that the book should have been priced much lower to make it attractive to the discerning reader. At this kind of pricing, I would be surprised if they manage to sell a few thousand copies.

Vaasanthi’s new book is called “Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The World of Tamil Politics”. Vaasanthi has been the editor of the Tamil edition of the India Today for a reasonable period and she has observed TN politics from close quarters. So, this book holds lot of promise.

Tamil Nadu is a state very different from the rest of India, both culturally and historically. It has retained a fundamentally separate identity for itself in language and caste structure, and this is most evident in its politics.

Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The Word of Tamil Politics tells a political story that has all the elements of a blockbuster film, where ironies and larger-than-life characters abound: Periyar, a Kannada-speaker, who introduced the notions of Tamil self-respect and regional pride, yet dismissed Tamil as 'a barbaric language'; the matinee idol MGR, a Malayalee born in Sri Lanka, who became Tamil Nadu's most popular mass leader; the Dravidian movement which, by its own ideology, should have helped the Dalits but has instead supported only the upwardly mobile middle groups; and parties that rose to power by propagating anti-Hindi and anti-Brahmin sentiments but have now allied themselves with the BJP. It is fitting that this reel-like scenario is presently dominated by the electoral politics of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, one a scriptwriter and the other a former actress. Through all this, the author discusses the successes and pitfalls of politics in the state, from the free-meal scheme for students and the elevation of leaders to a divine status to the anti-conversion law and the rising importance of the Dravidian parties in national politics.


  • Publishing a hard-bound book gives it a veneer of respectability doesn't it ?
    dravidian politics has been about personalities and their egos,not about the masses.Their drama may make for a good script for a potboiler. The tamil movie Iruvar directed by the luminary Manirathnam was a good effort.

    The state desperately needs a viable and representative third front formed to tackle the real issues.

    Should we spend more to know about their shenanigans when we pay dearly for having them govern us ?

    By Anonymous Anand Srini, at 5:59 PM  

  • Vaasanthi's views about Dravidian politics are well known.

    If you can excuse, I'll say just this - typical Brahminic stuff.

    By Blogger RaajK, at 6:25 PM  

  • agree with anand on the third front view. TN is prbly the only state dominated by movie-related politicians for more than 3 decades. Its time we had a change.

    But their antics sure make for a good laugh.

    By Blogger Madhu, at 9:23 PM  

  • Looking at this the bigger question of what happens to Tamil literary works comes to my mind. If you were to go to a place like Landmark the Tamil books are typically found at a corner. Even that would be dominated by Vairamuthu, Sujatha and the old literary works of thirukkural and thiruvasagam. Is this what a world's premier language can offer? But the sad part is no one seems to care. Just hope that the boom in english books rubs on to tamil as well and the language's publishing pulls up its socks in this new age.

    By Blogger avinayan, at 10:48 PM  

  • @Anand Srini,
    Respectability, yes! But not at the cost of volume sales.

    Point taken.

    doesn't look like things will change for the better.

    You're right. Landmark doesn't that much to the discerning Tamil book lover. I think this has to do with the kind of crowd landmark (yuppie & upmarket) attracts. I also feel that english books might give them more margins bcoz they tend to be priced higher. I think Higginbothams and other book shops should be better options for the tamil reader.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 7:53 PM  

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