Paava Kadhaigal and the Yayati Complex

December 24, 2020

I just finished watching Paava Kadhaigal. The last episodes were gut wrenching. Most of these episodes have their roots in true events. I’ve heard versions of these throughout my life.

However, the real indictment is not these occasional soul-crushing stories that we hear, but the fabric of intolerance that a majority of Indian society has accepted into their way of life. An intolerance for independence, an intolerance for uniqueness, an intolerance for originality, an intolerance for diversity. Most societies exhibit this to some extent. India, and probably most eastern civilizations, take this intolerance to a disturbingly dark place because of what Devdutt Pattanaik rightly calls the Yayati complex. This intolerance extends to our progeny.

Coupled with the parental mindset of considering children their property, not a gift given to them, this leads to unspeakable atrocities, some of which are told in gruesome detail in Paava Kadhaigal. We are also good as a society to brush the past under the rug, find a gullible out-group to blame or simply resort to the convenience of fatalism to explain our unpardonable weaknesses and our pitiful failure as a society to be inclusive.

I’m hoping that with more creators pushing the boundaries to speak loudly the shushed truths and platforms giving them a voice, we rise above the prejudices of our dark pasts, but take all and only the goodness of our traditions and culture to create a positive, diverse and inclusive world for the next generations.

I’m thrilled to see the honesty, grit and powerful storytelling coming from the Tamil Film industry, given the freedom to create. The last movie that captured me so powerfully was Paruthi Veeran. I know many will speak out against the series, call for a ban on Netflix. To them, I say, go read the Mahabaratha - no, not the Mahabaratha made for the idot-box, but the epic narrations. If Devdutt is too radical for you, you can read Rajaji’s version in Tamil. That is the most damning “Paava Kadhaigal” told in the history of Indian civilization.