English daily's nasty "Dalit outreach" headline over Ilaiyaraaja’s Padma invites backlash

The New Indian Express' Chennai edition, deemed it appropriate to discredit Ilaiyaraaja's Padma by calling it a part of Modi government's "Dalit outreach"

It was a proud moment for South Indian artists when on Thursday, it was announced that music composer Ilaiyaraaja would be conferred with the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in the country. Following the announcement, immense support and commendation poured in for Ilaiyaraaja, who is known for his legendary works in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi cinema.

However, on Friday, people in South India found themselves outraged over an irreverent headline plastered on the front page on an English daily. The Chennai edition of The New Indian Express, for whatever reason, deemed it appropriate to discredit Ilaiyaraaja’s Padma Vibhushan by calling it a part of Modi government’s “Dalit outreach” programme. “Dalit outreach with Ilaiyaraaja’s Padma,” read the daily’s most prominent headline.

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Ilaiyaraaja has won five National Film Awards in the past

The news article went on to mention that Ilaiyaraaja being awarded the Padma was “important against the backdrop of Dalit movements in Gujarat led by Jignesh Mevani and Bhima Koregaon uprising of Maharashtra,” which bore the implication that the Government of India awarded him for political gains as opposed to his own merits.

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The news was vigourously torn apart by people who viewed it as an insult to the meritorious music maestro. While TV anchor Sumanth Raman blamed the newspaper’s “warped thinking”, others thought it was written in “bad taste”.

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The most scathing insult to the paper came from actor Kasturi Shankar, who shared a video of her spitting on and later tearing apart the news report:

There was also some confusion involved as to the media house responsible for the report as some criticised The Indian Express instead.

However, The Indian Express‘ New Media Editor clarified that the report was published in The New Indian Express.

Ilaiyaraaja is one of the most celebrated music composers of Kollywood. In the past, Ilaiyaraaja has been awarded five National Film Awards — three for Music Direction and two for Background Score.