Image Deities and Devotees

Image Deities and Devotees

Jayalalithaa being offered a bouquet by the ministers of her party. Among them the incumbent prime minister of India Narendra Modi.

Maruthar Gopalan Ramachandran (popularly known as MGR) was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu between 1977 and 1987. But before his famous tenure as a politician began, MGR had already cemented himself in the Tamil imagination through decades of playing the hero-saviour in blockbuster Tamil films, a suite of movies still re-watched with veneration today. Half a century prior to the pervasive social media environment we inhabit today, that turns on an equivalence between image and self, figures like MGR consciously used their star status to convert a fan following into a voter base. In this conversation, Balaji Maheshwar and Karthik Subramanian, two photographers from Tamil Nadu who are both making work exploring MGR’s legacy, open up questions around image worship, image deities and devotees, and the role of cinema in shaping our most intimate memories.

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We as photographers don’t have to go behind powerful imagery, rather, we have to find ways to take a good image that could be used to generate power.
Reading time: 24 min.

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