Thyagabhoomi and the rise of the people’s movement 

Image credits – The Cinema Resource Centre, The Indian Express Archives and The Internet. 

As I write this post, thousands have gathered at various points in the state expressing their solidarity for what they consider their birthright – to save the culture for their future progeny. For the past 3 years, an event that has been happening since aeons and which has closely been associated with Tamil culture has been stopped by the might of the state. Citing arguments against animal brutality, Jallikattu has been stopped dead in its tracks. The only trouble though is that the the argument is littered with hypocrisy as has been proved in the last few days – Why only Jallikattu, why not ban horse racing is just one of them? 

80 years ago, Colonial India too was in a very similar mood. Having been deprived of their right to freedom, national movements were springing up through out the country. While sporadic incidents of violence did take place, millions of Indians took up the path of non violence and followed the path shown by Mahatma Gandhi. One of the core principles of this movement was Swadesi – the boycott of foreign made goods, something that is also becoming very relevant today. 

Thousands of people wore Khadi to show the support for the nation. 

The Swadesi non-violent movement was at its peak in the mid to late 30s, before the appearance of The Second world War changed things in India. After the war, even the British conceded that it was only a point of time. 

It is in this background that K.Subhramanyam, a nationalist film maker made the third of his social films. Balayogini and Sevasadanam had already established him as a man who would strongly use the film medium to bring about and highlight social injustices, but Thyagabhoomi took on the might of the British Lion itself. 

The story deals with Savithri, a plain kind hearted and innocent girl who transforms into a bold woman after being abandoned by her husband. In Later years, her husband wishes to get acquainted with her, now that he is rich, but Savithri refuses. The matter goes to court, but she agrees to give him compensation but refuse to live with him. When the court insists, she prefers to take part in the freedom movement rather than live with this man. 

The film has several direct and indirect references to the on-going Freedom movement. Scenes of the charka and Mahatma gandhi are shown, with Savithri’s father Sambu Sastry (Papanasam Sivan) and daughters Charu (Baby Saroja) taking part in the movement. 

The underlying strong point of the story was that India could very well take care of her own needs (Savithri’s independence), a concept that was truly bold for its Time. 

The story written by Kalki Krishnamurthy and nationalist tunes written by Papanasam Sivan, the film truly achieved in kindling what it was meant to do – fan the flame of Nationalism. 

Understandably, the film was banned sometime in late 1939, about 20 weeks after its release in May 1939.

Although some historians have cited that the film was banned after independence, this is untrue.(The film banned after independence was Burma Rani made by TR Sundaram)  The ban on Thyagabhoomi lasted for 7 years, before it was lifted in the year 1946, when it was well and truly clear that India was on her path to independence. 

Today hundreds have come online and vowed to stop consuming products made by Foreign Multinationals to safe gaurd and support our own farmers and local businesses, much the same way, as our ancestors chose to not wear clothes or products manufactured by the British. 

This post is dedicated to all the brave hearts following the same principles of nonviolence and fighting to save the culture of ‘our past’ for ‘our future’. 


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