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This Award-Winning Tamil Film’s Story Is The Reality Of India’s Dying Handloom

Posted by Vivek Kumar in Society
July 10, 2017

Set in the late 1940s, Tamil film “Kanchivaram” has won several awards internationally, apart from the National Award for best film. “Kanchivaram” is a beautiful film and one can learn something from it. It is unlike most commercial films of today.

In the film, Vengadam (Prakash Raj) travels back to Kanchipuram on parole to see his paralyzed daughter Thamarai (Shammu). The story unfolds as Vengadam recalls his good and bad times while on his journey back home from parole to see his paralyzed daughter Thamarai (Shammu). Vengadam promises his daughter that he would gift a beautiful silk saree to her for her wedding, as per tradition.

Like the rest of the weavers in the film, Vengadam cannot afford a silk saree for his daughter. The people in his village predict that this false promise would bring a curse upon the child. A poor Vengadam decides to smuggle silk for the saree from the temple where he works. Later, a writer (P Sreekumar) who is also a communist thinker, influences Vengadam to lead the community of his village to fight against the village headman to get their demands fulfilled.

Vengadam’s close friend Parthasarathy (Jayakumar) proposes to have his son marry Vengadam’s daughter Thamarai. Happy for his daughter, Vengadam is stuck between the dilemma of his ambition and ideology.

Later he decides to call off the strike to work in the temple so that he can complete the saree which he has secretly been weaving since his daughter was six years old.

However, one unfortunate day, he is caught and is sent to jail, leaving his daughter alone. Thus, proving the prediction of the curse to be true.

This wonderful film is directed by Priyadarshan and Tirru added life to it with his beautiful cinematography. It is a must watch for everybody who wants to see how the people belonging to underprivileged sections have been tortured much more by our countrymen rather than the British.

What is more unfortunate is that the situation of the weaver’s communities is like how the movie portrayed it, even though it is set in the 1940s. It has been 70 years since India got independence, but the handloom sector in our country is still marginalized.

According to the Ministry of Textiles, the handloom sector is one of the richest and most vibrant aspects of the Indian cultural heritage. The weavers of this industry are keeping the traditional craft from different states alive. The level of artistry and intricacy achieved in the handloom fabrics is unparalleled and certain weaves/designs are still beyond the scope of modern machines.

What’s more disappointing is that in a document released by the ministry, it further describes how handloom weaving is largely decentralized and that the weavers mainly belong to the vulnerable and weaker sections of society. With the lack of orders, the rise in consumption of foreign materials, rise in the price of input costs and the long time required to create a single saree, etc, are reasons which are slowly killing the handloom sector.

Financial aid by the government or support by textile outlets alone cannot resolve the existing issues. Self-help groups should be promoted through connecting them with small and medium enterprises. We can make their lives better by buying goods from small weavers rather than accepting foreign material. We should do this so that some Vengadam can fulfil his dream.