Actor Senthil, a popular cine comedian in the South Indian cine field particularly in Kollywood, Tamilnadu, India has acted in many popular movies with several leading actaors and comedians.
Senthil was born on March 23, 1951, in Ilanjambore, a small village near Mudukulathur, Ramanathapuram District, Tamilnadu. Since he was an unruly boy, he was constantly scolded by his father. At the age of 12, he ran away from home. He first worked in the shop of a cooking oil vendor. Later he worked as a bar attendant in a private wine shop. Interested in acting, he joined a drama troupe where he developed his acting skills. He received small roles in the Tamil film industry in Chennai.
The movie Malayoor Mambattiyan gave him the required exposure to propel him to stardom. He has about 185 Tamil movies to his credit. He has also acted in movies in Hindi, Malayalam etc.
He is notable for his comedy roles pairing with actor Goundamani in the vein of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy who were popular during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s
Senthil is one of the most-loved comedians in the South Indian film industry. His appearance on the screen enlivened the audience replete with claps and whistles; and, when he paired up with Goundamani, the cheering doubled.
Goundamani and Senthil ruled the comedy world of Tamil cinema for over two decades. They established a place for themselves in the heart of their audience by entertaining them with their perfectly timed dialogue delivery and unsurpassed body language, and witty, rib-tickling comedy.
Senthil opted to act in movies irrespective of their budget. Once he said: “I don’t believe in movies with small budgets are large budgets. There are only two types of movies – good and bad.”
The images I have used in this article are real. I accept the fact that they are nauseating. If you too feel so, then I have made my point. Manual scavenging is in vogue not only in India but is rampant all over South Asia. For us Asians, this is life. We have to live with it.
It was a hot afternoon. I was waiting for the bus in Kodambakkam – the home of Kollywood in Chennai. Like others, I too pressed my handkerchief to my face to ward off the stench emanating from the heap of reeking night soil lying nearby.
Then I saw this old man around 70, with only a loincloth to cover his body, his right hand groping into the clogged drain of a septic tank.
My heart bled for him. I drew out a ten rupee note from my shirt pocket and stretched it towards him.
He looked up at me. His face glowed with anger. He murmured a few loathsome phrases from his gutter language. Clenching his fist, he shouted, “Hey man, who did you think I am? I’m not a beggar!”
Before I could apologize, the old man started ranting:
“Ayyaa [Sir], I am an old man and I don’t know when I was born. I do an honest job. My work is clean. My father too was a scavenger. I don’t remember doing any other work. I have three girls and one boy. Two girls are married, the third is a widow, and she lives with us. My son is a useless fellow. He steals at home and loafs around with his good-for-nothing friends. I don’t know how; he sniffs my liquor wherever I hide it. I had an eye operation only two weeks ago. If I sit at home, who will feed my wife, daughter, and son?“
This is only one story of the terrible plight of athe manual scavengers in Chennai.
This made me think of the caste system in India. While there are just four main castes, and more than 20,000 sub-castes. Then what about the sub-sub-castes, clans, and a multitude of other mutations?
Here is another story of the terrible plight of manual scavengers in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.
Gurunath works all day amidst the extremely unbearable stench of night soil. He often stays dead drunk to do his work. At times, he finds it difficult to eat when he thinks about the human waste he has wallowed in. He has asthma. Many of these cleaners succumb to asthma and the life expectancy of many in their community is just 30 years.
In Punjab, men belonging to lower castes, particularly from the Chuhar, Mehathar, Halalkhor, Lalbaghi, Bangi, Thotti and Jamadar castes, are widely employed as manual scavengers and sewage cleaners. These caste subgroups generally called Valmikis, are the lowest of the low in the caste hierarchy.
Jaikumar, who runs a public primary school in Punjab, says:
“A lot of children in the school come from migrant families. Everyone thinks that Punjab is a prosperous state but the truth is that we have our own problems. There are a lot of people who can’t afford to have two meals a day and especially the dalits, the migrants and the people who are surviving on less than minimum wage … Members of my community are poor and there are high levels of illiteracy. They aren’t aware of the dangers attached to these jobs or of other opportunities available. It is crucial that they be educated about the risks involved. Only then will they be empowered to demand safety equipment and even an end to this practice altogether.”
Here is a video made by Jaikumar that highlights the dangers of this work. This video shows two manual scavengers killed while working without any safety masks or gloves which necessarily have to be provided by the government.
In India, 90 to 95 percent of people belonging to the scavenger communities engage in this abominable undignified work. The drains often contain an abnormally high percentage of carbon monoxide, methane, hydrogen sulphide and other toxic gasses. When cleaners are directly exposed to these gasses they fall sick and even, as the above video shows, die immediately. But most manual cleaners do not know that on every waking day their lives are under threat.
Why should human beings, citizens of democratic India work day after day surrounded by the unbearable conditions and stench of human waste?
What happened to the 1993 law banning the practice?
Harris Jayaraj, an Indian film composer from Chennai, Tamil Nadu has written numerous scores and soundtracks for Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films.
His father, S. M. Jayakumar, a noted film guitarist was an assistant to Shyam, the Malayalam music director and later became a film composer.
Harris began his formal training in carnatic music when he was six. As per his father wish he learned classical guitar. At the 4th grade exam conducted by the Trinity
College of Music, London, Harris scored the highest mark in Asia. In 1987, at the tender age of twelve Harris began his music career as a guitarist.
Click on the above image
First night, First dreams, They are coming
Note: The English translation was done by an anonymous person.
Mudhal iravu, mudhal kanavu, varugiradhu
(First night, first dreams, coming)
Muzhu nilavu, oru milagu, erigiradhu
(full moon, one black pepper, burning)
Pagal nilavu, digil kanavu, varugiradhu
(day moon, nightmare, coming)
Vazhi sevuru, mazhai kuluru, adikiradhu
(a wall on the way, cold rain, beating)
Thirakkaadha vaanam ondru, pirikkaamal paathen indru
(non opening sky, without opening, I saw today)