The jallikattu protests that stunned the entire country with their intensity was more about the assertion of Tamil pride than anything else. The people gathered at the Marina Beach had a long list of grievances about the way in which the State as well as the Centre dealt with them. The resistance towards the cultural and linguistic imposition of Delhi upon the southern states figured prominently in the placards and slogans.
Since then, we've seen new age Tamil pride emerge frequently - from the issue of English on the milestones on highways being replaced by Hindi to former BJP MP Tarun Vijay's statements about living with "black people" of the South.
While these have been political expressions of Tamil unity, there have also been times of crises like the Chennai floods and Cyclone Vardah when ordinary people have stood together. A sense of identity strongly tied in to the state and its culture has emerged among the youth.
Capitalising on the public mood, Fully Filmy, which specialises in movie merchandise (remember the famous Kabali T-shirts?) and has run viral campaigns inspired by films, is launching a new brand called Tamizhaa.
According to a press release, "The purpose of Tamizhaa is not just making and selling products. Others may see mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, mobile phone cases as products. We see them as social statements and are hoping that the Tamizh youth see it that way too."
The Tamizhaa brand will be launched online on April 14 which is Tamil New Year's Day. From mobile phone covers with Thiruvalluvar's image to Bharathiyar T-shirts, the products are youth-centric.
Pitching it as a battle between foreign brands that make these products and one that understands the local culture, Raunaq, the Creative Director, says, "Until now, there is no such product that explores the pride of Tamizh culture. This kind of love for one’s language is not seen anywhere else in India and that is what enhances the brand appeal.”
Will a Bharathiyar on their T-shirt inspire young people to also think about what he said regarding caste or the emancipation of women? It would be great if that happened but this is probably a lofty and unfair expectation, considering people all over the world have been walking around with Che Guevara on their chest without a clue about what he said. Might as well have our own pop icons while we're at it.