THE MILLENNIAL MESSENGER
THE WEEK|May 23, 2021
With his pen spitting fire against issues like caste and politicking, Tamil rapper Arivu wants to influence the lives of people around him
LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN

As you enter 26-year-old Arivarasu Kalainesan’s modest two-bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Chennai, you are greeted by a musical keyboard on an old table. It is flanked by books—Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and one on the Buddha by B.R. Ambedkar. Also, on the table is Neelam, a monthly magazine on art, literature and politics.

There are a few more books in the adjacent shelf; the topics include Panchami land rights, the Thamirabarani massacre and the oppression of dalits. A microphone on a tall stand stands near the wall, which is adorned by a colourful poster that proclaims Sanda seivom (We shall fight). For people who were introduced to Arivarasu—or Arivu as he is professionally known—through the recent YouTube phenomenon ‘Enjoy Enjaami’, a peek into his apartment can offer an insight into the artist’s interests and core beliefs.

Fans, of course, would know. In January 2020, Arivu (meaning knowledge) lashed out against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act through his single, ‘Sanda seivom’. Translated excerpts from the Tamil track reads: “CAA is here to divide us... Do not subscribe to religious divisions; all of us are immigrants on this earth; whoever runs this war is a businessman.”

In another notable track—’Anti Indian’—he sings about the division on the basis of caste and religion, about jingoism and the imposition of Hindi. He also calls out the political leadership: “Nee kattum vari thaan vendum, nee sindhum kanneer vendam/Nee yenbadhu vote-u mattume, naadu yenbadhu rate-u mattume (Only your taxes are needed, your tears are not needed/You are just a vote, this country has a price).”

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