Dravidian movement had its origin in various successive political and social formations. The earliest, the South India Welfare Association, was founded in the year 1916, by zamindars and maharajas to counter the growing power of Brahmans in society and politics. This was also established to agitate for their share in office proportionate to their population. Loosely called the Non-Brahman Association, it published a journal, Justice, which later gave it the name `Justice Party`. E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker famously known as Periyar, disillusioned with the Congress Party that he believed was dominated by Brahmans, established his Self-Respect Movement in the year 1925, to assert the dignity of non-Brahmans, and joined hands with the Justice Party only to take over its leadership. In the year, 1944 he rechristened it Dravida Kazhagam and crystallized its objectives. The objectives were mainly rejection of Brahman domination in all spheres of life, rejection of Aryan and northern domination over the south, rejection of all things associated with Brahmans and the north, such as Hindi, Hinduism, Sanskrit and the paraphernalia of worship, creation of an independent Dravidanadu i.e. Dravidian land, reversion to Tamil culture and ethos as reflected in the old Sangam literature of Tamil Nadu
and regaining the glory of Tamil language and history.
The ideological baggage presented by this movement appealed to a large section of Tamil society, kindling in them a Tamil pride. The leaders of the Dravidian movement were powerful speakers in general and C. N. Annadurai, in particular. He was the founder of the breakaway Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
in the year 1949. He was an outstanding orator. The members of this party were distinct from other political outfits in that they used an ornate, alliterative Tamil, which the masses very much liked due to its rhythmic flow.
The flowery references in their speeches mesmerised the audience. Annadurai also had a great love for theatre and cultivated all those connected with the stage and, later, with cinema. He was liked and adored in the theatrical circles as well. Annadurai set the ball rolling in Tamil theatre
with propagandist drama, which had all the Dravidian rhetoric, spiced with biting satire. M. Karunanidhi
joined him. Both gave the Dravidian propaganda juggernaut a long repertoire of plays, which had a tremendous impact on the public with their flaming speeches. Bharatidasan, virtually the poet laureate of the movement, was a very early entrant in theatre and cinema, though not all his films and plays were intended for propaganda. In his most talked-about drama, Iraniyan in the year 1934, he subverted received mythology by presenting Prahlada
as a Brahman
stooge and the demon Hiranyakasipu as hero. It bristled with the most heated diatribe against all he chose to condemn. Several authors also constructed Dravidian versions of the Ramayana
, glorifying Ravana
as their hero and debunking Rama, the Aryan king from the north invading the south.
The Dravidian movement by the 1940s had accomplished itself with powerful productions. Its troupes moved from village to village, town to town, creating a sensation, the police ever watchful. In course of time, the plays were universally accepted by the public and started figuring in the repertoire of reputed companies as well.
Once the acceptability and crowd-drawing potentialities of the drama were proved, their conversion into films towards the end of the decade was inevitable as well as easy, beginning with Annadurai`s Nallatambi and Velaikkari both in the year 1949. The response was unprecedented. The moment his name appeared on the title credits, halls resounded with thunderous spontaneous applause. This opened the floodgates of cinema for the movement. Like the political leadership in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, the ideologues of the Dravidian movement were quick to realize the power and penetration of the screen and stage, and talented enough to exploit it. Tamil cinema
and theatre also were pliant enough to welcome this verbal onslaught, as their artistic concepts privileged the spoken word anyway. Finally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam won the Tamil Nadu
elections in the year 1967, and no counter-ideology could thereafter recapture the state. The movement owed its success in a significant measure to its work in movies and plays.
Dravidian Movement comprises of different strands and phases of the Justice party, the Self-Respect movement, the Dravida Kazhagam or the Dravidian Federation (DK), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or the Dravidian Progressive Federation (DMK), and the Anaith Indiya Ann Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or the All-India Anna Dravidian Progressive Federation or the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
(AIADMK). The expression `Dravidian movement` refers to a history of politics in Tamil Nadu based on the ideas of caste, language, and region. These developments occurred around the time of World War I when the Congress-led Home Rule movement posed a threat to the colonial regime.