Video: Chennai Poromboke Paadal

19 January 2018

This video was produced by Vettiver Collective, an activist group, in Chennai, India.

It is intended to bring to the awareness of the state government and civil society the need to safeguard the delicate ecosystem of the Ennore creek, a backwater located in Ennore Chennai, 20 km north of the city centre and 2.6 km south of the Ennore Port. I am interested in the way in which this music video has brought together land-use history of Tamil Nadu since the Chola period, language, environmental activism and the trend towards the democratisation of south Indian classical music, in a pedagogic format that is rhythmic, repetitive and visually compelling. What strikes me particularly is the use of  the common pejorative word ‘poramboke’ to convey a socio-political and environmental message by drawing upon the evolution of the word since colonial times and connecting it to both the local and the global discourse on the commons. The video is an example of non-textual mode of transmission of complex ideas around ecological justice and a shared future whilst delivering a strong critique of unmediated development. Not only is the content important here but also its pedagogic format – the once inaccessible Carnatic ragas are now being hummed by local fishing groups and others who do not attend musical performances in haloed music halls in the city.